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Beragh's Powerful Symbolism

Mark Devenport | 11:18 UK time, Wednesday, 6 April 2011

For anyone who remembers the days of Rule 21, the GAA regulation which prevented members of the security forces playing Gaelic sports, or the long term arguments over the army's occupation of part of Crossmaglen's ground, the image of young men and women weaing GAA tops standing alongside other young men and women in police uniforms as part of the shared guard of honour at Ronan Kerr's funeral looks like powerful evidence of a fundamental shift within the nationalist community.

If reports of the Queen visiting Croke Park prove accurate, then the spring of 2011 will be remembered as something of a watershed for the GAA, given the history of British forces opening fire on the crowds there back in 1920.

It's important not to get too carried away - the appearance of graffiti in Derry and the recent disturbances in Craigavon underline the fact that dissidents can still count on some support within specific areas. However if Chairman Mao was right when he said that a guerrilla army needs popular support like a fish needs water then you would have to conclude that the water the dissidents are swimming in is very shallow.


  • Comment number 1.

    We have not yet reached the end of the peace process, but we have surely passed the end of the beginning and approach the beginning of the end.

    In my lifetime, I hope to see a generation reach adulthood in Northern Ireland never having known unthinking fear or hatred of a grouping of their countrymen.

    R.I.P. Ronan Kerr - the last victim of the Troubles (and their aftermath)? I can but hope and pray that it be so.

  • Comment number 2.

    There is breaking news on the BBC main web site which says a man has been arrested in Scotland in connection with the death of PC Kerr. I hope the authorities have got their man!!

  • Comment number 3.

    "It's important not to get too carried away"

    It's worth reflecting on these words from Anne Travers whose sister Mary was murdered, whose father Tom was shot and mother was shot at on Sunday, April 8 1984. Anne was speaking to Joe Duffy on Monday on RTE Liveline:

    "How ironic, [Mary] was 23, [Ronan] was 25. Nothing has changed. My sister has died. Thank goodness we've got a kind of peace process where less people are being murdered. I'm delighted that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have come out and condemned this young man's murder but they never once said sorry for my sister's murder; they've never once apologised to my mum; in fact, they condoned it, Martin McGuinness condoned it."

    Perhaps those who talk of 'moving forward' should stop and reflect for a moment about the impact these simple words might have on those who have suffered heartbreak and devastation. Life may go on but so too do the nightmares.

  • Comment number 4.

    The disgraceful murder of Ronan Kerr raises a number of different issues.

    As for the comment about support being needed - a comment regularly trotted out by Sinn Fein, I'd like to know of the large scale support that the IRA had during the Easter Rising or the border campaign of the 50's. The fact is, it was very few and far between, including reports that those involved were spat upon by the locals. Also, if Sinn Fein was convinced of the dissidents support being great, would this then legitimise their actions? Surely if you disagree with something in principle (an idea that Sinn Fein are trying to put forward) then whether there is wholesale support is totally irrelevant.

    Would Sinn Fein denounce those "heroes" would took part in fighting the British occupation of Ireland? Of course not - they will be there celebrating them at Easter just as they have every other year.

    There are very uncomfortable questions that Sinn Fein need to be asked but unfortunately no-one is prepared to rock the boat or have the guts to ask them. It's the proverbial "elephant in the room"

    Whilst I've never supported republicans of any kind, it think it is totally out of reality for Sinn Fein to describe dissidents as traitors to Ireland. Exactly how? They are people who want to end the British occupation of Ireland and are prepared to use a military campaign to achieve this (strangely similar to Sinn Fein/IRA in the past).

    If Sinn Fein are so opposed to the murder of policemen (something they were happy to support/engage in for 30 years) then why will they not admit that the armed struggle was wrong and unjustified and that when they targeted members of the security forces it was wrong then, in the same way it is now.

    The facts about so called "dissidents" is that they have long held the same belief of securing a United Ireland through the armed struggle, whereas Sinn Fein are actively enforcing British rule in Ireland. It strikes me as a bit rich to criticise others for something that they were more than happy to engage in for a long period.

    Perhaps if they had practiced what they (now) preach, we wouldn't have had nearly 4,000 unnecessary murders. I'd also like to know if Sinn Fein agree that the SDLP's position was the correct one all along (i.e trying to achieve a United Ireland through peaceful means) since this is the path they have now chosen.

    Interesting questions but no doubt they will remain unanswered, but even more worringly they will remain unasked...

  • Comment number 5.

    The problem here is that a very small minority will not let the vast majority live in peace.

    They should live by the ballet box rather than the bullet. This has nothing to do with Nationalists or Unionists this is just down to a few trying to force their will on the majority.

    Finally we should be looking at things in a different way, instead of imposing a 50/50 mandate we should be looking at how we can encourage all to engage in policing. And the same should be said for all public bodies. What we want and should expect are the best to be recruited into these posts. And I am sure that there are people of equal abilities from all areas and communities within NI.

  • Comment number 6.

    The BBC announces that the Orange Order will take no action against UUP leader and Orangeman Tom Elliott for going to Ronan Kerr's funeral Mass.
    This tells us something about the Orange Order, that they had to announce they weren't going to punish Tom Elliot, tells us everything we need to know about the attitude of the Orange Order

  • Comment number 7.

    patrick'spoint. When Trimble was hauled up by the disciplinary board after attended a funeral mass of Omagh victims in Donegal, he defended the Order, saying it's rule about catholic masses wasn't compulsory but 'aspirational' That's an aspiration?

  • Comment number 8.

    An aspiration is something you aspire to, something you hope to bring about in the future. As far as the Orange Order ban on Orangemen attending catholic service, it's not aspirational, it's been well entrenched for many years.

  • Comment number 9.

    "a watershed for the GAA"

    The GAA is still struggling with its links to militant Irish nationalism and the latest SF stunt isn't helping:

    Sinn Fein’s online store described the item as “GAA merchandise with a difference”.

    “This beautiful GAA shirt commemorates the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.”

  • Comment number 10.

    In these days of peace when the GAA and Sinn Fein reach out and stretch themselves- when is the p.s.n.i going to do the same- and actually let their football
    team join the GAA- they do enough talking about it-but no action-

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    "a fundamental shift within the nationalist community."

    Here's an interesting observation in the Duffy programme that seems not to have been commented on. It comes from a mother of two young children who is a serving PSNI officer:

    "The only way forward is the way Sinn Fein are offering us in the North as young nationalists and I entirely endorse what they're offering us"

    She also said that when she was at Dublin's Trinity College she'd met Martin McGuinness and had been 'very impressed with him and what he'd had to say'.


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