Jude Collins

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Gerry Kelly and that speech

As I write this, I’m on stand-by for a possible call from the Nolan Show on Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh. The topic (which may or may not be debated this morning, depending on how much time other topics take) is Gerry Kelly’s praise of the Tyrone IRA Volunteers in his speech last Sunday, and his subsequent statement on the Nolan Show yesterday (which I missed) that he would do the same things again if the armed conflict here were to be replayed. 

I’m slightly surprised that this is being considered for discussion on the Nolan Show.  Gerry Kelly himself put the matter in a nutshell when he said “There are two narratives here”. 

One narrative, the republican one, is that the IRA were part of a tradition going back at least as far as the United Irishmen - a tradition where Irish men and women sought by force of arms to remove British rule from Ireland.

The second narrative, the unionist one, is that the IRA were a gang of murderers who rebelled against the lawfully-constituted authorities and were guilty of horrendous crimes, include the murder of policemen, UDR men and even innocent civilians.

There’s nothing surprising about the existence of competing views. It’s hard to think of any conflict where both sides agreed in their interpretation of what happened or was happening. If they did agree, there would be no conflict. So it's hardly surprising that Gerry Kelly praised the dead IRA volunteers in his speech last Sunday, and unsurprising that it has attracted unionist criticism.

Repugnant though it may be, each side has to accept that the other’s narrative/interpretation of events is sincerely held. For as long as we try to ram our interpretation down the throats of those on the other side, the longer we’ll remain stuck in this hopeless hole in the road. Let’s stop concentrating on what divides us and look for those things which unite us. That way, we may make better progress down Reconciliation Road.

Newsflash: I’ve just had a call from the Nolan Show explaining that other topics have indeed squeezed this one out. On the other hand, it’s helped me clarify my own thinking on the subject, and I always find that useful.


  1. The Queen during her last visit to Ireland admitted "sad and regrettable mistakes had been made" during Britain's troubled relationship with Ireland and went on to say that “We can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.” As an Irish Republican I can accept that near apology in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation and with the confidence that we are moving on to better relations based on mutual respect and justice,it's just a pity that some of the Queen's more loyal and ardent supporters here in Northern Ireland could not follow her example,be more conciliatory in tone,mellow the rhetoric,try to see things from the other camp and just stop thinking that constructing a level playing field for everyone somehow erodes their culture and puts them at a disadvantage.

    1. Exactly! Well put.

    2. Mutual respect and justice ? My family member was murdered and nobody was ever brought to justice, nobody ever apologised, nobody ever acknowledged that they'd murdered a family man going about his business earning a living .. Gerry Kelly sees himself as a soldier, he sees his comrades worthy of remembrance. Well i see my grandfather lying in a coffin with a bullet wound in his head. I was 6 years old & terrorists murdered him. Masked men that ran into the darkness feeling their mission was complete. No apologies, no respect. Am i really supposed to forgive and move on when every day i still miss my grandfather. Am i expected to consider the murderers as soldiers because it ensures reconciliation and peace? That isn't compromise, that's people wanting me to forgive murder because it is better for their conscience. I want Gerry Kelly to feel remorse, i want him to know how his comrades hurt alot of families, i want him to see the image i saw when my family were distraught carrying my grandfather in his coffin.. Gerry Kelly likely feels he has felt this when he attended IRA funerals but he hasn't, simply because his comrades weren't innocent people. Why should i move on when an agreement was reached to ensure the murderers walked free. No justice. Then today ( rhetorically speaking ) i am expected not to feel anxious or upset for fear of upsetting a political agenda. Or for fear of not moving on. I'll feel forgiveness when Gerry Kelly feels remorse. Instead of him justifying what he and his comrades did as simply conflict or war. If that is considered bitter, then i guess i'm bitter.. Towards murderers.. I don't consider myself as any less British because of flag restrictions or parade decisions, just like Gerry shouldn't consider himself any less accountable for pulling a trigger. My nationality has never caused me to break the law. My culture has never caused me to shoot a man. My religion has never caused me to plant a bomb and my political opinion has never caused me to consider a gunman / bomber as a hero. Forgiveness comes when remorse is displayed. I see no remorse, only excuses.

  2. With all due respect and I do feel sorry about your grandfather but that was then and this is now and everyone of us including myself could relate many ,many similar stories about family or close friends who were also victims of the Troubles.We are all to some degree still haunted by the memories of terrible acts of violence and murder committed by the opposing sides during the Troubles as Mr Gerry Kelly says "there are two narratives here".
    There is hardly a family in Northern Ireland that hasn't been affected,that being said ,how many more victims should there be before we collectively throw our hands up and say ok now that's enough it's time to build the peace .I am sure your grandfather was a good man and would not want any more blood spilled in his name and I am not trying to be flippant about this but seriously all of us have to put our grievances behind us for the coming generations to enjoy normal lives without the threat of endless sectarian strife...p.s I know Gerry Kelly can speak very well for himself and I think he is a very astute,honest and dedicated Irish Republican who personally has sacrificed a lot but it is very admirable how he is still so committed to advancing the peace process and he is on record as saying he regretted any deaths in the course of resisting the British occupation and oppression in Ireland.

  3. Can republicans on here can clarify for me and no doubt the vast majority of the Protestant Unionist Loyalist community,when are the provos allegedly soldiers and when are they allegedly political terrorists/subversives, I can never get the timing of these two distinctions right???

    In shinner/provo eulogies they are soldiers however when they were going to carry out their acts and were taken out by the Army or RUC, we always got this huge outcry from republican that they should have been arrested.

    But is they were alleged soldiers as they went about their murderous work, should they not have anticipated there would have been others out trying to kill them, or were they badly lead.