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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Apples and Orangemen

I have spent the last 13 years of my life in the West Belfast, Andytown orbit. I suspect I know a little bit more about it than some. I certainly don’t class as an outsider or a disinterested outside observer on these matters. I am also not going to be drawn into a long discussion that will just rehash verbal territory I have been over many times before.

Comparing any of the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland of either side to the Al Qaeda is ludicrous. Ours are a local problem, not a global one. In any other period of history what happened in Northern Ireland would have been called a civil war. In the early days of ‘The Troubles’ in the 70’s there was actual open small unit warfare between elements of the British Army and highly trained IRA units. This was not reported in the newspapers but I have talked to people who were there.

The British Army purportedly arrived to protect the Catholics from the Protestants, but the people who lived through that time say that the results were otherwise. It was as if the National Guard who went to Selma shot the blacks they had come to protect.

It would not surprise me to find that the USSR was feeding money and agents provacateurs to both sides in the late 60’s and early 70’s in the run up to the hostilities. Whatever the causes, the problems between the two communities escalated into open warfare. There were real problems here for outsiders to exploit, not imagined ones. In those days the Protestant community ran Northern Ireland the way the Klu Klux Klan ran Mississippi. Catholics were niggers here, and that made a fertile and inflammatory ground for what was to come.

This was not a pleasant place in those days. One friend was held in his bedroom with an Armalite stuck into his mouth – he was perhaps 15 – while his mother was held downstairs and the British soldiers searched for the hundredth time. 30 years ago, but I think if he ran into that officer today only one would survive the meeting. I could give you a hundred stories like that, all from the people it happened to, all from people I know very well.

Almost all of it happened right here in one small province, about the size of West Virginia. True, the IRA did things in England; but it seems to me that is supposed to be part of the same country. Some of the Protestant paramilitaries acted in Ireland, but I would also have to call that part of the same ‘country’ because there was a rather serious intersection of interests in Northern Ireland.

Did the IRA and UFF commit terrorist acts? Yes. Are they just like the Al Qaeda? Not even close. Al Qaeda killed over 3000 people and injured many more (remember my flame about us never being given an old fashioned casualty figure, dead plus injured?) in one hour. The attack on the World Trade Center was not a military objective; it was planned to maximize deaths of civilians of a nation nearly a half a planet away from where the attackers lived. The same organization killed perhaps another thousand people in the last decade, many of whom were Americans. This is no little local civil war. They aren’t killing their neighbors over which flag should be flown over City Hall.

In the global leagues, the IRA and UFF and the rest of the Northern Ireland alphabet soup are pikers. And pretty much out of business pikers at that. I’m sure Natalija can tell us about living somewhere where the terrorists really knew how to go about their job. I think we should all be thankful for the fact that as bad as these people may have behaved, they were not in those leagues. They called and politely told people to evacuate before blowing up places, rather than timing for maximum carnage. They never tried to acquire ‘the bomb’. They didn’t blow up civilian airliners.

And yes, I do agree that the ‘Real IRA’ people responsible for killing so many people of both sides in Omagh should be just quietly shot dead if found. I doubt anyone here would shed a tear over their despicable carcasses.

The Peace Process here is working. I have lived through it. I do not want to go back to the way it was. I want the Republican and Unionist leaders jawing and jockeying instead of shooting. I want them to keep it up for another decade. By then they will be out of touch with the reality of day to day life. Belfast is a lovely place with these lads talking instead of fighting. I’d like to keep it that way.

Some day there may be a vote here on which country we are to be a part of. I suspect by the time it happens the vote will be based on pure economics rather than which flag was printed on your nappies.

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