The IRA and Europe’s Ghosts

All the countries the euro crisis is ravaging can recall a time of dictatorial rule and revolutionary violence. Franco’s fascistic regime clung on until 1975, late in the day even by the lax standards of the 20th century. Portugal’s 1974 revolution against the Salazar dictatorship was a glorious moment of civil disobedience, but the carnage the revolution accelerated in the old Portuguese colonies of Mozambique, Angola and East Timor continued for decades. Assassination attempts and naval mutinies preceded Greece’s revolution against the military junta in 1974 and terrorist groups carried on operating in Greece into the 21st century, as they did in Spain.

Europe, that soft, safe continent of moderate politicians, pacific generals, meticulous bureaucrats, liberal judges and protected workers, is a recent invention. One should not expect it to contain its old demons after the collapse of its hopes.

The first example of the “new politics” emerging from the wreckage of the eurozone is the campaign for the Irish presidency by Martin McGuinness, the butcher’s boy who became head of the IRA‘s northern command.

Carry on reading

5 thoughts on “The IRA and Europe’s Ghosts

  1. It’s strange but true. Just yesterday, at work, I was thinking about Roger Cook’s programme, The Cook Report. It is much missed.
    A good piece.

  2. Sinn Féin can’t be compared to the anti-immigrant parties on the rise across europe. They’ve a good record on protesting deportations of immigrants and were against the shameful constitutional amendment brought in by Fianna Fáil and the PDs that not all people born in Ireland qualify for citizenship.

    Those in both the British and Dublin media can’t understand McGuinness’ popularity and success because they don’t put the effort in to really studying Ulster politics. It’s easier for Nick Cohen to fall back on assumptions that SF is a populist party playing on peoples’ fears. (the real undisputed populists in Irish politics are Fianna Fáil and SF cant fairly be accused of trading on fears – theyre usually roundly mocked and called naive for their optimistic positions). The reality is that McGuinness has won much respect from across the community in his roles as education minister and DFM. He’s confounded expectations in office and has been a personable and warm figure in the community. He’s visited nearly all of the minority communities in the north and has done a lot to make these small, often ignored, ethnically and religiously diverse groups, a part of Belfast and it’s society.

    That’ll disturb Nick and Fintan and the rest because it doesn’t fit with their reliable, custom-made mould for McGuinness as an uneducated, populist, former ‘butcher’s boy’. (one of the few jobs open to him at 16).

    The reality is a great deal more complex, subtle and interesting than Nick describes. Do some digging Nick. Come to Ireland and talk to people (unionists as well as republicans). You’ll get a much greater insight and a more nuanced story. It’ll just take a bit more effort.

  3. Puffyshirt – your penultimate paragraph leaves out what Nick Cohen pointed out: that he was someone who sent people to the grave. The IRA wasn’t a reading group and you don’t get to the position McGuinness did by punching teddy bears. He is not someone who should be at the top of politics anywhere.
    If I looked on as a woman was getting attacked in the street and someone from work seen me doing so, do you think i’d be getting high fives all round the next day? Er, no. I’d be forcefully asked why didn’t I try and stop it, and then when word went about the place I’d soon find people who used to speak wouldn’t want to hear an excuse or reason, they would quite rightly change their mind about me.
    I hope ‘forgetting’ about McGuinness’ past doesn’t lead to forgiving McGuinness past.

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