Saturday, 19 July 2008

Rick O’Shea of the Old IRA

In this recent article, historians John Bew and Martyn Frampton argue that the circumstances of the Northern Ireland Peace Process make it a poor model to apply to the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Francis Sedgemore found fault with aspects of their account in this post, and I subsequently found fault with his view in the comments.

Specifically, Francis wrote, “Bew and Frampton overlook the complex relationship between the IRA and the Irish political establishment, and the level of popular support throughout Ireland for the republican movement,” to which I responded as follows:
You say the article overlooks the relationship between the IRA and the Irish political establishment, but the authors refer to “an initial period in which the Irish government showed itself to be somewhat ambivalent on the IRA (with which it shared an ideological heritage)”.

It’s true that most major parties in the Republic of Ireland are descended from earlier splits in the IRA, with the main exception being the Irish Labour Party. And it’s true that some form of republicanism has been supported by the majority of the population since independence. But to suggest that the article overlooks the level of popular support for the republican movement throughout Ireland, well, Provisional Sinn Féin currently has 4 seats out of 166, it was 5 in the previous parliament, 1 before that, 0 before 1997, and this under a proportional representation system. If you go back to the ’80s you find no Provisional Sinn Féin members, and between 0 and 3 Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party members per parliament.

Compared with how well extremist nationalist parties perform in some other European countries, I’d say these results were satisfyingly miserable.
Francis also had words to say on English nationalist delusions, and while I’m very happy to see nationalist delusions of any kind being knocked about, I don’t favour such selectivity in this context, and so I reminisced:
There’s no doubt some truth to talk about English delusions, but having grown up with the same 1916 propaganda poster on the wall of every primary and secondary school I attended, the Irish nationalist delusions are more vivid for me, even after 15 years in London. That poster was even on the wall of my third primary school, the Protestant one, and we had the same narrow nationalist history curriculum there too.
There’s more of this back and forth on Francis Sedgemore’s blog.

Whoops - well, perhaps not.

All this talk of the delusions of Irish republican nationalism reminded me of a fine comic strip by my old friend Gerard Crowley and his collaborators Ray and Senan Molony. Rick O'Shea of the Old IRA was published in issue no. 1 of The Yellow Press, an Irish satirical magazine from the early 1990s. Gerard was editor of the magazine, a position of much responsibility but no power as it was owned by the artists and writers.

More on Gerard Crowley here, and more on The Yellow Press here.

Comic strip copyright © Ray Molony, Senan Molony, Gerard Crowley.

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