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Far left armchair general finally disabuses himself of IRA's warped narrative

By Henry McDonald

Published 19/09/2015

A good man once wrote that "freedom is the necessity to change" and everyone is, of course, entitled to transform themselves for the better throughout their lives.

Even David Trimble said this of his enemies on signing the Good Friday Agreement of 1998: "Just because you have a past doesn't mean you can't have a future."

It is doubtful that the new shadow chancellor John McDonnell thought of Trimble's words or indeed those of an old republican more than a decade earlier when he issued his apology on BBC Question Time about the IRA's armed campaign.

However, if McDonnell really means he is sorry about the hurt and abhorrence he caused by his own infamous words back in 2002 when he marvelled at the "bombs and bullets" of the IRA somehow leading to peace, then everyone should have the good grace to accept his apologia.

Yet his remarks about Bobby Sands and the 'armed struggle' were not only at the time morally repugnant but also pig ignorant and ahistorical.

Leaving aside the fact that the Provisionals' killed more Catholic civilians than the British Army or that they carried out acts that could be constituted as international war crimes such as 'disappearing' victims like Jean McConville, McDonnell's assertion at the republican commemoration flew in the face of historical truth.

Earlier this week this writer put McDonnell's claim of a causal link between Bobby Sands' death on hunger strike to the outcome of the peace process - the Good Friday Agreement - to someone who knew him, Richard O'Rawe, the IRA's press officer inside the H-Blocks throughout the 1981 death fast.

Whilst O'Rawe acknowledged that standing candidates like Sands and after his death, Owen Carron, in by-elections was the pathfinding strategy towards Sinn Fein's electoral rise and the eventual eclipse of 'armed struggle', the ex-IRA prisoner-turned-author of Blanketmen insists the endgame in the north of Ireland was not the one Sands fought for. "Bobby would not have spent a minute in prison, never mind have given his life for the Good Friday Agreement, but his death was the spark that led to the eventual abandonment of the armed struggle strategy, even though it was a million miles away from the socialist republic that he held most dearly," he told me.

The hunger striker's family, including his sister Bernadette, have said more or less the same on many occasions too, yet McDonnell, faraway in his London constituency, pays no attention to the Sands' own analysis of where the Provisional movement went.

During the Troubles, a section of the British far left, including old Bennites like McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, refused to listen to the pleas of thousands of Irish socialists, social democrats, liberals, trade unionists and peace campaigners over here not to give succour to the 'armed struggle.'

This large section of Irish society from the real Ireland argued that simplistic, instant solutions like 'Troops Out' would only fuel the fantasies of the PIRA leadership and in turn prolong the utterly futile and counter-productive 'Long War'. History proved them right, of course, even if the likes of McDonnell and Corbyn refused to listen. Perhaps they're listening now... at long last.

Belfast Telegraph

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