An example courtesy of an IRA Stooge
Nothing but an Unfinished Song,1 shows that once again the propaganda apparatus of the IRA has produced, indirectly in this case, a celebration of IRA terrorism and violence. We learn in the book in great detail about Bobby Sands upbringing, about his fears and wants, about what a good boy he was when he was younger. Much is made of his friendships and what a likable young man he was. We learn in excruciating detail about just how terrible his death was from hunger. We learn what a nice idealistic young man he was and how much he suffered and what a martyr he was for the cause.
We do not of course learn much if anything about the lives of those who were killed by the bombings he was involved with. Their hopes, fears, aspirations, what their childhoods were like. Who loved them. All that is absent. Neither are details of how unpleasant their deaths were. About what it was like to be blown to pieces to be horribly injured and die agonizingly of those injuries. The horror of being crippled, blinded, brain damaged for life are all ignored. Bobby Sands is in this world a worthy victim, his victims and other victims of the IRA are unworthy victims to which every effort must be made to forget. Such are the implications of this book.
The fact is the IRA deliberately hijacked the Catholic civil rights movement has part of a deliberate strategy to provoke a crackdown which would lead to British intervention. This would in turn lead to repression against Catholics and support for a terrorist campaign against the British and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Eventually the British would leave in disgust and the Republic of Ireland would intervene to save the Catholics in the North from savage Protestant attack. This leading to the unification of Ireland. Afterwards the IRA would target the government in Dublin for overthrow. The eventual aim being the establishment of a one party "Leninist" state in all of Ireland.2
One doesn't know how to react to such bald faced cynicism and gall. In 1969 the Catholics had a great deal to complain about in terms of their treatment in Northern Ireland; rightly called the "Orange State", dedicated to preserving and enshrining the Protestant ascendancy. A civil rights movement was an obvious response, but the IRA manipulated it for their own purposes deliberately hoping and acting so has to create an inevitable repressive response which would further, they thought, their long range goals.
In pursuit of its aims the IRA murdered, bombed and committed numerous vile atrocities. Including much killing within its own ranks of those who who "betrayed" the movement. Including those who got sick of the massacres. The possibility that Bobby Sand had no choice in going on the hunger strike, the alternative to doing so being death puts a new light on the matter. For over 25 years the IRA tried to terrorize the Protestants into accepting forcible unification and the British into abandoning Northern Ireland. Despite countless despicable outrages they failed.
What the IRA until the end never seemed to get was faced with the intractable opposition of the majority of the population of Northern Ireland their chances of success were slight. Further that their atrocities would only cement that opposition. The result was failure. The IRA was quite simply defeated as mentioned in the following review of the book examined in this essay:
This year marks the 25th anniversary of those awful months. Sands may have started his protest to vindicate republican violence, but the hunger strike's paradoxical effect was to bring the armed struggle to an end — and, ultimately, to persuade the IRA to accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland, the state that Sands and his dead comrades had dedicated their lives to destroying.3
Nothing but an Unfinished Song, of course doesn't dwell on much less acknowledge that the end result was a defeat of the IRA and the binding of Northern Ireland even more firmly to Britain. Neither does the book mention in much detail how what was finally achieved could and would have come about, almost certainly, much sooner if it had not been for the violence, of which the IRA was so heavily involved. Instead the book surrounds with a haze of sentimentality and nostalgia the memory of the hunger strikers carefully ignoring so much and eliding the simple fact of failure. It was all such waste. Such reflections are not for this book which celebrates a fantasy of "success".
It is in the nature of so many terrorist movements and movements that use terrorism to create a rhetoric of heroic success even in the face of failure and this book buys into that rhetoric. Along with that is of course a basic hypocrisy of means.
The IRA and its supporters believed that they were entitled to commit myriad revolting outrages, while at the same time shrieking at the top of their sanctimonious lungs about the outrages of the other side. Thus Bobby Sands terrible death was somehow an outrage while IRA assassinations and outrages were somehow excusable. Like the murder of people in their beds. This book accepts this mindset implicitly and fully, by going on and on about Bobby Sands terrible death. Perhaps one could mention a few of the people crippled for life by IRA bombs and describe their current suffering?
The gall and hypocrisy were and are appalling. Bobby Sand was involved in outrages no doubt for a cause he considered good, just like the Protestants Ultras considered their cause good and their outrages permissible also.
The hunger strike was a huge propaganda victory for the IRA and served to attract many Catholic youths to the IRA cause. The Protestant generation is not part of the generation that the book talks about being ignited. But not being IRA believers their opinion doesn't count I guess. Various reviews talked about people from all sorts of backgrounds being politicized, by the hunger strikes just like it says in the book. Just like the book such reviews deliberately down play to the point of total erasure the fact of the sectarian basis for that support; that it was Catholic support that was galvanized not Protestant and if anything the hunger strikes and their effects further polarized the Catholics against the Protestants and if anything galvanized Protestant support against unification with Ireland and antipathy against both Catholics and unification and increased Protestant support for the continued link with Britain.
The result of this victory was more than a decade more of murder and slaughter by the IRA all to no useful end and fruitless.
No doubt many of those who had relatives and friends among the victims of Bobby Sand and his colleagues thought his suffering and death entirely well deserved.
One can't leave it at that, Bobby Sands did not commit his evil acts out of desire to be evil but out of a sense of idealistic outrage at real and perceived wrongs. It was his fate to be used and to continue to be used long after his death has a propaganda factoid. It was and remains a sadly tragic fate for a young idealist. This book is merely another part of the continued propaganda campaign.
The story of the myriad victims needs to be told, and not forgotten. But then books like this one are dedicated to the purpose of erasing the victims from history.
Perhaps the final word on this book should be given by a relative of Bobby Sands:
In response to an article headlined 'New Book is First Study of Bobby Sands', which appeared in a recent edition of the Andersonstown News, I wish to put the record straight.
According to the article, the author of the book, Denis O'Hearn, "thanks the hunger striker's sister Marcella for her help with the book." This suggests that I had "helped" or participated in some way in the compilation of this book and, therefore, endorsed it. This is misleading and untrue.
I wish to state categorically that neither I, nor any of my family, helped Mr O'Hearn with his book in any way, nor does my family endorse the book. Indeed, the opposite would be the case as his book contains numerous factual inaccuracies.4
1. O'Hearn, Denis, Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation, Nation Books, New York, 2005.
2. Geraghty, Tony, The Irish War: The Hidden Conflict Between the IRA and British Intelligence, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2002.
3. Moloney, Ed, Review, Washington Post Book World, 2006, can be found at Powell's Books, Here
4. From Amazon, Here