Jude Collins

Friday, 1 November 2013

We only think there's nobody like us

We like to think our problems are unique but they’re not. Just the way we manage to screw up  efforts to resolve them.

The New York Times  had an article a couple of days ago about two Mexicans academics who are trying to establish a museum to recall what Ulysses S Grant called “the most wicked war ever waged”. It was the war between Mexico and America and it was less about principles and more about land-grab. At the battle of La Angostura, the Mexican side could have defeated the out-numbered Americans - not least because hundreds of American troops deserted and chose to fight on the Mexican side. These were nearly all recent immigrants, and among them was an Irish unit called the San Patricios, or St Patrick’s Brigade. The reason there was such desertion from the US forces was because many among the ordinary foot-soldiers on the American side were Catholic while most of their officers were Protestant  and many of them suffered from what the New York Times calls one of the US’s ugliest flaws: prejudice, in this case directed at Catholics under their command.  Despite the San Patricios and despite the superior numbers, however, the Mexicans were defeated and the Americans emerged victorious. Many historians believe that’s because the Mexican general, Santa Anna,  had yielded to one of Mexico’s ugliest flaws: corruption. He did a deal and left the field to the Americans. 

But these  two Mexican historians are intent on building up the Angostura Battle Museum with relics from the battle, including a glass case full of broken earrings:apparently many Mexican mothers followed their sons to battle, so they could tend them when and if the need arose. The academics have planted a ‘peace tree’. Every year they come to this spot, sometimes with people from the Irish consulate.  They are working so that “the war without satisfaction” doesn’t determine future relations between the Americans and Mexicans. “We don’t want to relive this war; we just want to remember it”.

Do you know, maybe it’s the Halloween madness getting to me, but I could have sworn someone here talked about a peace centre somewhere so people here didn’t have to relive the past conflict...Nah. I must have been fantasizing. Good on the Mexicans, though. They’re doing what’s necessary to stop the past paralysing the future. 


  1. Give us an insight into what your ideal peace centre would look like here.As in all these things,the devil is in the detail.

  2. I wouldn't presume to tell experts in this kind of thing such the designer of the peace centre Daniel Libeskind what it should look like and what contain; but I imagine it would present key examples of how we have hurt each other in this part of Ireland and why, in the hope that future generations can avoid the mistakes we have made. (When I say 'we', by the way, I include of course the British government, not just unionists and republicans/nationalists).

  3. The key example of how we have hurt each other in this part of Ireland in the latest episode of conflict is the amount of gravestones erected. Maybe we should build a wall and carve on it the names of those people whom sadly the most of remain anonymous Erect it in the grounds of Stormont if there's enough room of course. I think the the events of the last week have taught us a valuable and quite sobering lesson. I'm all for conflict resolution centres but some side winning the conflict over a conflict resolution centre or peace centre well it seems to me to be doomed from the start.

  4. I'm all for the peace centre at the Kesh. The jobs, the investment, the social progress and political progress this centre will bring forward makes it a worthwhile effort.

    That said, I'm struggling to understand SF's apparent obsession with this project, at the expense of more important projects. I.e distribution if poverty funds to impoverished areas.

    Today on radio 6 counties, it was suggested SF may compromise on flags and parades in exchange for the peace centre at long kesh.

    As a SF voter, that isn't on as far as I'm concerned. Recognition of nationalist rights and culture, the right to live in peace without hundreds of drunk bigots tramping past your doorstep is not a price nationalism should pay for this centre.

    1. I think that you make a good point there. Before the peace centre was first proposed I recall no clamour for such a centre, nor do I think anyone much cared what would happen to maze/long kesh,in the grand scheme of things.
      Why is it so important that we hear talk of Stormont being brought down?
      Maybe we should follow the Mexican example Jude talks about and wait another hundred years or so for the dust to settle before we start building any museums to the troubles.

  5. A peace centre is a great idea and maybe with an actual cell with Martin Corey in it, a live exhibition to show what internment was and still looks like,housing a man who served his time ,was released and later arrested without charge.
    Martin Corey is a Republican from Lurgan,Co.Armagh. He was sentenced to Life Imprisonment in December 1973.At that time he was only 19 years old. He was to spend the next 19 years of his life in jail until he was finally released without signing anything in June 1992.Without any warning on April 16th 2010 he was taken back into custody and has remained there ever since,no charges have ever been brought against Mr Corey,no explanations and apparently no justice,his former comrades in government have shown no solidarity because Mr Corey now a man in his 60's refuses to tow the party line politically so has become an outcast in a political wilderness similar to the Gulag.The Sinn Fein apparatchiks are complicit in this crime by their deafening silence and hopefully the discontent and disgust a lot of their former supporters now have for the party will manifest itself at the next elections by abstentionism.

  6. Jude do you know a good few years ago as part of the Feile an Phobail the premier of this film was shown . The actor Tom Berenger was over for it As you correctly described The San Patricios Batallion . However there was much controversy in the US at the movie . It didnt get the recognition it deserved . Thus many cinemas shunned it .