Jude Collins

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Doing the right thing or just thinking it?

I had two emails inside the last twenty-four hours. (Actually I had an awful lot more than two but it’s just these two I want to write about.)  One was from a former classmate, in response to a link I’d sent him, urging people living outside the twenty-six (or is it twenty-two?) counties who haven’t got a vote to influence the election by contacting relatives/friends, whether by email or by calling, and urging them to make a difference and vote for Martin McGuinness, ideally  as No. 1, failing that as No 2 or 3 on their ballot paper. (Yes, Virginia, I do believe McGuinness would be far and away the best choice, and no, Viriginia, I don’t think the precludes me from passing comment on things political, any more than Eamon Dunphy should be asked to step away from the microphone because he’s in favour of McGuinness’s bid. Everyone has a view: that’s a totally different matter from being biased, so that you don’t do your job in a fair way. If all journalists/commentators declared their take on things as Dunphy has done, instead of faking “I have no opinion”, debate might be more sensible)…Where was I? Oh yes, emails. So  I sent this pro-McGuinness link to an old schoolmate; he responded by emailing me and saying he couldn’t encourage people to vote McGuinness because of McGuinness’s violent past.  Which was I’m sure a sincerely held view and fair enough, even if I disagreed with it.

Then I got a second email, which contained a letter  from Fr Sean MacManus which was printed in The Irish Times  recently.  In it he made the point that while a lot of people condemned McGuinness’s violent response to the injustice and  discrimination that were characteristic of the North, not nearly so many offered a non-violent response to that injustice. How many risked their lives, went to prison, were tortured  for their non-violent opposition to obvious injustice? How many of them showed the sincerity of their non-violent beliefs by suffering for them?

It strikes me as an interesting point. I’m increasingly convinced that in the next three weeks the media will give up on attention to the IRA section of McGuinness’s life and turn to scrutinize present qualifications for the presidential job. It couldn’t happen quickly enough, in my view. But meanwhile let's ask ourselves:  how many of the voices raised against McGuinness put into practice their non-violent philosophy and suffered for it? Mmm.  Single figures, would you say?  

But back to the voteless people with connections in the south of Ireland. One of the things that truly gets on my wick is when politicians or others call on their audience to “support us” – and leave it at that. Are we meant to guess what form that support might take? What about giving us a hint or two? Nothing like giving people the tools to turn fine words into deeds.

Which is why I like this give-your-southern-cousin-a-call line: it offers the chance to turn  sentiment into action.  George Bernard Shaw once said you know a man or woman’s philosophy, not from what  they say, but from how they habitually act.  How people respond to a link like this tells us – and them – a lot about the quality of their political philosophy. If you don’t act in some way on what you believe, what’s the point in having it?

Here's the link with accompanying comment. Over to you. 

Please send the above link to any Irish person you know living abroad or in the North who is disenfranchised in the election. These individuals represent an army of people can be mobilised to contact their relatives in the Irish Republic (and there are hundreds of thousands of them) and lobby them to vote McGuinness.

Please pass on and distribute widely.


  1. By the way Jude, what did you do during the Troubles?Did you sit in the security of your ivory tower in Jordanstown and not turn "sentiment into action"?Surely its relatively easy to be an apologist for Sinn Fein now.If Martin makes it, you can be sure of an early invite to the Aras!

  2. Jude
    Do you think all participants (including Martin) should have adopted a non-violent philosophy?
    Might it not have got us to where we are a little quicker, and a lot less painfully?

  3. Giordanobruno - I can't see the British army adopting a non-violent philosophy, somehow - what would they do with all that weaponry - not decommision it, that's for sure. But my point was not that everyone should have adopted a non-violent policy; it was that those who opted for non-violence (with some honourable exceptions) didn't opt for any non-violent actions that might have resulted in their being made uncomfortable, let alone subject to suffering/death. It's not my point as I explain in the blog - it's one that Fr Sean MacManus makes in his letter to the Irish Times. I should have added, btw, that he ended the letter with the point that many anti-McG people in the south do so because they can't bear the thought of a northern republican in the Aras, just as many in the US can't bear the thought of a black man in the White House. The Irish Times, to their credit, included that in the letter they printed. The VO, I'm told, printed the letter but left that little bit out. Go figger?
    Dunno if I've answered your point, g, but I've tried.

  4. Mary Davis supports people living in the North having a vote in the Irish presidential election.


  5. Link to Martin McGuinness speech at Letterkenny on Saturday night.


  6. Anon 29:30 - Good question, the answer to which is 'Nothing'. During the entire decade of the 1970s I lived abroad, during the 1980s I wrote a column which slowly moved from personal to political as I began to open my closed mind. I talk about it in the book edited by Danny Morrison about the Hunger Strike, if you're interested in more detail. I don't really see myself as an apologist, although of course an apologist is one who offers a defence or explanation, so I suppose I could be classified an apologist for SF. Since you ask me, one of the driving forces for that is the fact that ALL of the mainstream media take an anti-SF stance, explicitly or implicitly, so I feel my tiny blog at least gives a tiny number of people a possible other perspective to the massed Shinner-bashing. If I'd wanted an invite to the Aras I probably could have wangled one over the last 14 years, since I know Mary McAleese and like her a lot. But I promise you, I can live happily without ever seeing it. What would be the point?

  7. Article about in the Guardian about Martin McGuinness by Ronan Bennett.


  8. Sinn Fein convert from old Nationalist Party10 October 2011 at 15:33

    Another insightful post from Jude. Great to see people engage on the issue of violence and non-violence. It has always bugged me when Lisburn Road types and Dublin 4 toffs would say things like isnt it awful etc, what did they ever do when the cities of Derry and Belfast were burning in around us? I dont know who said it, but very often to do nothing is worse than doing something.

  9. Sinn Fein convert

    "but very often to do nothing is worse than doing something."
    Not when doing 'something' means bombing and shooting your fellow countrymen/women/children for 30 years.
    Give me the Dublin 4 toffs any day.

  10. http://www.broadsheet.ie/2011/10/13/godwins-law-1985/