I was released from Maghaberry prison in September of ’89 and within days began my four-year English degree in Trinity College, Dublin. There were rounds of television and radio interviews reporting my surprising message (which I first published in February 1978) that the IRA should call off its armed struggle and enter democratic politics.
As my message travelled across the Irish sea and the Atlantic, I became better known at that time, as did the fact that I was given a role (and a desk) in Trinity Students’ Union. A message arrived for me sometime in 1990 from an Anne Miller in Belfast asking to meet me to discuss her brother, Martin. I had no idea what this was about but agreed to meet Anne briefly in Belfast on my way home to Derry one weekend.
I duly met Anne Miller and she expressed her family’s concern about her brother Martin who was involved with the republican movement and she asked if I would – or if I could – talk to Martin to try to dissuade him from any further involvement. I was sympathetic to the concerns expressed, but informed Anne that I didn’t think I had the ability to dissuade him using merely moral arguments.
I checked Martin/Máirtín in Wikipedia the other day – it only refers to him as having two brothers, but in an article on his Blog I see that he was one of seven children – no reference to Anne though.
It was always easier to discuss an end to armed struggle and honest reconciliation with men who had served ten or fifteen years in prison and who had had time to think and grow, and perhaps who had gotten to know the enemy in various guises. I always found it easy to get along with my Loyalist prison friends – Kenny McClinton, Billy Mitchell, Rab Turner, Junior McClelland and Albert Brown – these men had all served big time.
But there were always republicans who had never participated in armed struggle and who therefore felt they owed it to ‘the movement’, to the prisoners and to ‘the martyrs’ to keep faith with the most extreme forms of protest and identity, including ‘the language’.
The somewhat embarrassing physical force vacuum they feel in their past lives is always stimulating them to give 110% to impress themselves and others. They are often doctrinaire, strident, zealous and arrogant – never moreso than about ‘the language’ – and they feel obligated to express opinions from time to time that are more extreme than those uttered by former gunners, bombers and even bolt-cutters.
Relief from the almost sexual need to express extreme devotion to The Cause probably explains Martin/Máirtín’s recent outburst claiming that Michael Stone enjoyed collusion by the RUC during his gun and grenade attack in Milltown Cemetery.
“I was there!” Martin/ Máirtín emphasised, to remind the body politic that there was at least a whiff of cordite and danger about him from Michael Stone if not from actual IRA actions.
In a previous news scoop, Máirtín’s Andersonstown News and Irish Echo ran a whitewash interview with Alfredo Scappaticci denying that he was a British agent named ‘Steak Knife’ – a scoop that later looked like fake news when Scapp fled to England to a safe British Intelligence bunker. [Read Robert Livingstone’s ‘scoop’ here.]
How difficult it must have been for Martin/Máirtín to bottle up the almost Tourettes’-strength impulse to express extreme statements while he was the 58th Lord Mayor of Belfast ‘serving all the people’ as they say. As he processed toward the Cenotaph to lay a wreath honouring Britain’s war dead how he must have tightened his scrotum and bitten his tongue to prevent an outburst similar to the Michael Stone one.
You did well, Martin/Máirtín, to hold in one of those ‘break the bastards’-style utterances of your mentor and hero, Big Gerry.
Martin/Máirtín recounts on his Blog that he felt unable to attend his Queens University graduation because the university was going to include a rendition of God Save The Queen by the RUC band – you martyr for Ireland, Martin/ Máirtín, that your generous ears should ever have to inhale such an imperialist cacophony!
You’re The Man because you wouldn’t graduate! Buíochas le Dia that you got the Quinnipiac honorary degree and gown experience instead! Loving it!
How you must have burned when McGuinness and Adams couldn’t wait to listen to God Save The Queen and even shake hands with British Royalty as well. WTF!
The French are held to believe that it takes only a yard of cloth to make a gentleman.
Martin/Máirtín, you have proven that it takes a damn site more than a yArmani of cloth to make a gentlemen of a Shinner in the political sphere.
You teach us that burning deep within even a suave sophisticate of a Shinner is a volcano of unexpressed putrid vitriol against the RUC.
And you were the Mayor who, when attacked by Loyalists in Woodvale in 2015 at your attempted tree plantation of Ulster, said at the subsequent court hearing that the PSNI officers risked their lives to save your life!
And you had to listen to your name shouted out IN ENGLISH in Woodvale – did greater woe e’er befall The Gael? And after you hearing it in English down all the years in your family before you changed it – veteran of an abusive childhood too! Béarla!
The experiment of putting Shinners in suits in Stormont appears to have failed, a Mháirtín – tearing down is easier than building up.
It looks like you have brought us right back to @OldBelfast