A chara, In response to Gerry McCartney's article featured in your paper recently (Friday 17th April], I am sure that during his time in gaol he was not alone.
Gerry McCartney attacks dissident groups for offering "only misery and long jail sentences". However, at the start of his article, he flatters himself with having served long "gaol sentences" while fighting for the Republic.
I couldn't help but notice the sly switch between 'jail', using the British judicial/criminal spelling, and 'gaol' using the traditional Republican spelling. A subtle sign that the criminalisation of Republicans is alive and kicking in the McCartney household.
In Gerry's letter he stated that he was born into a Unionist state governed by the British. May I say that the British still govern this part of Ireland and allow micro ministers to administer their laws.
Gerry's statement that "Republicans" (I would use that term loosely) are now at the heart of government is a gross inaccuracy. "Government" in the Stormont sense is akin to a child being permitted to dispense stamps from a post office s/he has received as a present at Christmas. As another regular Sinn Fein correspondent stated recently, you judge the government by who collects and receives the taxes and by who controls the security forces.
Gerry McCartney's central strategic point is that: "there are now in place democratic structures to ensure that the Republic can be achieved without armed struggle". Gerry states this as though it were an indisputable fact. If he is referring to the Belfast Agreement, then this must be news to the Unionists since they told the entire world that they signed up to it to ensure that the six counties would remain part of the UK. Who's confused and who's lying?
I welcome Gerry's affirmation that Republicans should be self critical. In light of this, I pose the question - what was it all about then? i.e. war, death, imprisonment and suffering to end up accepting a British state. A further question must also be posed - have things changed all that radically?
Fifteen years after the declaration of ceasefires, eleven years after the signing of an Internationally binding agreement and twenty years after the claim that the British had no selfish nor strategic interest in Ireland, we still live in a state of emergency, governed by emergency laws that are administered by special courts. We still have interment without trial, we still have masked and uniformed gunmen on our streets, we still have an armed British garrison based in our towns, all of our actions are still subject to British approval, we still suffer from economic hardship and unemployment, we still have to endure a housing crisis, our language and culture are still regarded as second class, many of us cannot live in our family homes, many more are still branded as criminals and forced to live in the margins of society and changes that we were told had been agreed and would be guaranteed by an internationally binding agreement are as yet unfulfilled.
Other issues which we as republicans were told would also be sorted out such as "on the runs" - an issue close to Gerry's own heart - remains unresolved.
In addition we now have a situation where Britain has a greater strategic interest in the North of Ireland than at any time since partition as their MI5 headquarters are based on our land.
Gerry asserts that, "it is not good sense to have in such a small island two education services, two health services and two energy services. Such duplication is wasteful of meagre resources".
While I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments, is it not also a waste of meager resources to surrender a seven council model for local government which would have benefited from economies of scale? This surrender highlights Sinn Fein's inability to stand up to Unionism who prefer to serve the interests of their constituency and who pursue reform on their terms. In light of such capitulations on a local governmental level, how could we ever have confidence that this party is progressing nationally towards unity?
Gerry further states that equality is at the heart of government in this state. Let me respond by stating that equality is not even at the heart of government in this predominantly nationalist city. We have a situation at present where Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors have treated the people of my area with contempt and have failed to conduct an EQIA into the closure of the local amenity site at the Brandywell. So much for the implementation of the GFA and the Equality Agenda.
We are told in Gerry McCartney's article that the work required in today's Ireland is one of persuasion. How many unionists have you persuaded to vote for the British to disengage since the signing of the GFA in 1998?
Your dishonest boastings that the Republic is coming, as if it were imminent, and we must just bend the knee for another few years, are contemptible.
Finally, since Gerry quoted lyrics from John Lennon I feel the need to incorporate musical lyrics of my own. In the words of T. Rex, "No, you won't fool the children of the revolution".
Ex P.O.W and Combatant
Republican Network for Unity