Peoples Democracy Member 1969 Part 2

Peoples Democracy Member 1969 – by  Peter Cosgrove  Part Two

    Strategies of Tension.

The political temperature in Northern Ireland continued to rise. On 30 March an explosion put the Castlereagh Electricity Board substation out of action.  Large areas of Protestant East Belfast were left without electricity. On 20 April Silent Valley reservoir was damaged by an explosion.  Again large groups of mostly Protestant citizens suffered the inconvenience of being left without running water. Most of the media seemed sure that this was the work of the IRA.  The IRA firmly denied any involvement.  Like most people I had no idea who was responsible although I could not understand how such actions would fit in with IRA policy.

Bomber confronting British troops

In fact both explosions were the work of a resurgent UVF and were intended to ratchet up anti-republican and anti-catholic feeling in the Protestant working class. This ‘strategy of tension’ became a feature of Italian fascist tactics in the 1970’s. It was very successful in Belfast.

Of course, even without the explosions there would have been increasing tensions between the two communities. The majority of Unionist politicians told their constituents that ‘Civil Rights’ was nothing but a Republican plot to take over Northern Ireland.  Catholic grievances were manufactured for propaganda purposes.  Catholics were often worse off than Protestants because they had large families and preferred the dole to working. They were priest-ridden and Dr Paisley’s ‘Protestant Telegraph’ newspaper could always detect the evil hand of the Scarlet Whore on the banks of the Tiber behind ‘Civil Rights’ demonstrations.

Around Easter 1969 a concerted campaign to drive Catholics out of Protestant streets in North and  West Belfast got under way.I accompanied Michael Farrell in efforts to move the victims’ possessions. Most of the people whose stuff I helped to move were single men, widowers for the most part, who had been married to Protestant women. Typically they were stopped in the street on their way to work, shown a gun and told that if they returned home from work they would be shot. Such threats were taken seriously.

We went with a lorry to retrieve those of their possessions which could be moved.  We were accompanied by UVF men with blue armbands and IRA volunteers. This was a depressing activity. The poverty of the little streets was only too obvious. You walked straight off  the street into the front room. Behind that there was a small kitchen with a cold water sink.  There was a toilet out in the yard, two rooms up the stairs, no bathroom. The wiring in the houses was only fit to work an electric kettle and a radio.  Few of the victims’ neighbours showed any hostility to the man who had been driven out. On one occasion I saw one of the UVF manhandle an elderly lady who was denouncing our escort as the people responsible for threatening her neighbour.

The chief flashpoint at this time was where Hooker St faced Disraeli St across the Crumlin Road. There was a pub at the end of each street. In Hooker St the customers would hang out a tricolour.  In Disraeli St they hung out the Union Jack. Fighting between the two sides would break out at closing time. We moved one man’s stuff out of Disraeli St and this was one of the rare occasions when the victim’s neighbours expressed hostility to him.

Michael was now a member of the NICRA executive and in this capacity he would go to Hooker St to try to persuade the residents to stop fighting with Disraeli St. In this he was not very successful partly because the RUC’s idea of policing the situation was to baton charge the residents of Hooker St, effectively heading up the Disraeli St. mob. In one of these baton charges I saw Martin Meehan, later to become a prominent Republican, fight bare-handed with RUC men carrying riot shields and wielding batons.  He was very badly beaten. I ran away.

The NICRA asked Michael to monitor  what was happening at various flashpoints. So, we were in Unity Flats when an Orange mob tried to get into the block.  There was hand-to-hand fighting in the courtyard.  Eventually the Orange mob were driven out of the flats.

On another occasion I drove Michael over to the Lower Falls where there was rioting between locals and the RUC. The front line was at the junction of Albert St and the Falls.We were walking down the road towards this when the first petrol bombs were thrown. The RUC charged up the road. Mindful that they would probably also attempt to block the road behind us I urged Michael to run for it.  He would not. He had come there as NICRA observer and would do his duty.  I left him standing in a shop doorway and ran up the road. I got up the road before the pincer movement was executed. A young man running beside me was pouring blood from a head wound and screaming “Give us the fucking guns”. I hid in a house in a side street until the RUC withdrew.  Michael was beaten up and arrested by the RUC who charged him with rioting.

I retrieved Michael’s car and had the unpleasant task of returning to Orla to explain that I had abandoned Michael. In the High Court the following afternoon we got Michael released on bail. The charges were later dismissed.

In July we held a private meeting in the Students’ Union at Queens. The discussion was about the ever worsening situation in Belfast and what was going to happen in Derry since the Stormont regime refused to ban the Apprentice Boys march in that city on 12 August.  We knew that this march would not pass off peacefully and that serious violence in Derry would have repercussions throughout the six counties. In the likely event of events in Derry triggering off serious violence in Belfast could the Catholic ghettoes be defended against what  might well be heavily armed Unionist mobs?

Sean Murphy said that the IRA would, if necessary, defend the ghettoes. Some of us questioned him about whether the IRA had the resources to do that. Sean said that ‘the army’ had modern weapons which he, for one, had been trained to use. In the event of serious attacks on Catholic areas these weapons would be used to defend them. Sean was an honest man but it transpired that he had been misled.

At the beginning of August we were contacted by Granada TV’s “World in Action.” Producer, Gus McDonald wished to make a program featuring Dr Paisley and a Catholic priest of similar ilk.  The future Lord McDonald believed that such a confrontation would make “great television”. We did our best to convince Gus that, while there was no scarcity of ignorant bigoted Catholic clerics, such a confrontation would not be allowed by the Bishop who was in charge of such clerics.  Gus was hard to convince. Finally we persuaded him to take his team to Derry for 12 August where there might well be “great television” waiting to be filmed. This he duly did and got quite a scoop.

   “AUGUST   1969”

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The annual Apprentice Boy’s march in Derry was the occasion when Northern Ireland began to implode. The Bogside, sick of triumphalist Orange displays, demanded the banning of the march. The Stormont regime refused to ban the march.  The Bogside took to making petrol bombs.  On 12 August the shit hit the fan.  RUC men in riot gear tried to enter the Bogside. They were backed up by some stone-throwing Apprentice Boys.  Young and old in the Bogside defended their area.  The low-lying Bogside was covered in a blanket of CS gas.  Bernadette Devlin MP was to the fore in the battle of the Bogside.

I answered the phone in Michael Farrell’s house when Bernadette rang. She did not beat about the bush. “Go out, and burn Royal Avenue,”  she urged. Worried that Michael’s phone was tapped I made a non-committal reply and quickly passed the phone to Michael. That evening Bernadette appeared on television news urging “the men of Ireland” to rally to the defence of the Bogside.

On the following afternoon the NICRA executive called an emergency delegate conference in St Mary’s Hall. From the platform we were instructed to go to our home areas and riot with the purpose of forcing RUC withdrawal from Derry. This was not exactly the “order for the country-wide advance” but it seemed a bit like that at the time.

Dermot Healey drove me to Enniskillen in a small white van. Dermot was a very good mechanic and a skilled driver. He had souped up the engine of the van so that it was capable of reaching alarming speeds.

I had arranged for Fermanagh PD and anyone else who was willing to assemble at the shops in Cornagrade housing estate. There were nearly two hundred of us.  Many had heard Taoiseach Jack Lynch’s broadcast in which he said that his government could not stand by while the North disintegrated. This phrase made some believe that Lynch intended to send the Free State army into the Bogside and some border areas. There was no truth in this but the thought of such a development made the Catholic crowds more determined.  Lynch’s speech also made the Unionists more apprehensive.

In Enniskillen we began to prepare to fight the RUC.  My old friend, the Nationalist Councillor, popped up. He arranged with the officer-in-charge of the RUC that if we moved off the roadway and held a meeting in Donnelly’s field everything would be alright.  Apparently only public meetings were banned. Meetings on private property were legal.  There were at least two problems with this piece of ingenuity. Moving into the field would allow the RUC to surround us and in any case we had come there to fight the RUC.

The ensuing skirmish was short enough but fierce while it lasted.  I marveled at a middle-aged man wearing a gabardine overcoat. From the inside pockets of the coat he would produce a bottle which he threw with great accuracy at the RUC lines. Then he would have a smoke before taking out another bottle.

We dispersed after thirty minutes or so. The RUC were being reinforced by ‘B’Specials. None of us were arrested.  The RUC had taken a few casualties. One of them had his jaw broken by a half-brick. Dermot and me took refuge in a house on the estate. We were given tea and sandwiches. When the RUC finally withdrew we recovered the van and went back to Belfast via Monaghan because we thought there might be roadblocks at the Ballgawley roundabout. We returned safely to Belfast.

Our little riot was a trivial affair compared to what happened elsewhere. In Armagh City ‘B’Specials from Tynan opened fire on an unarmed crowd.  They shot John Gallagher dead and wounded several others. In Belfast, armed Unionists, many of them ‘B’Specials,  invaded the Lower Falls. They were stopped by the Belfast IRA who resisted with petrol bombs, revolvers and a few antique Thompson guns. The volunteers of the Belfast Brigade had been trained to use the most modern weapons but the Dublin leadership refused to open the arms dumps. The seeds of the split in the Republican Movement had been sown years before but the division took root in Belfast in August 1969.

The RUC roamed West Belfast in armoured cars with mounted machine guns which they fired with little regard to who they hit. They killed eight year old Patrick Rooney in his bed.  They also killed Trooper McCabe who was home on leave from the British Army of the Rhine. Trooper McCabe had tried to defend the family home in Divis Flats from them. In Ardoyne, Gerard McCauley, a member of Fianna Eireann, died.

FREE  BELFASTPeople's Democracy march which was prevented from reaching Belfast City Centre by poiice and soldiers

On the following day Michael, Orla and myself decided to move into the Catholic ghetto. Someone had tried to burn Michael’s car outside his home in Stranmillis. The senior leadership of the Republican movement in Northern Ireland had been interned at the beginning of the month and we thought they might soon come looking for us.  We moved, leaving behind a comrade with a legally held .22 rifle in case the idiot who had tried to burn Michael’s car came back. We had a medium wave radio transmitter. In Andersonstown Michael negotiated with the most senior of the remaining IRA leadership and we agreed to set up a radio station as a joint operation.  Michael and Orla were allocated a house in the Lower Falls. I was billeted in a house in Sultan St.

There was a feverish air in the Lower Falls. Barricades were being built at the end of every street. A sniper was firing into the area from the Conway Mill. At least it was thought that he was in the Mill.  Wherever he was he took potshots at anything that he could see. Volunteers from the area set the Mill on fire.  The sniping stopped.

The next morning we went to a house in Andersonstown where we were ushered into a front room. Volunteers of the Belfast Brigade were sitting on the floor with their weapons beside them. Sean Murphy was there. He had been wounded in the foot and was propped against the wall. I sat down beside him and asked him how things were. He was not a happy man. The night before he had been given a .45 revolver and accompanied by six men with petrol bombs ordered to attack one of the armoured cars. He fired one round at the armoured car and the others threw their petrol bombs at it. The armoured car stopped, slewed the machine gun in their direction and fired a burst which brought the bricks from the wall they were crouched behind down on their heads. It was hardly a surprise that Sean went with the Provisionals when the split was formalized.

After a while Gerry Fitt MP came in. He had come to ask for an armed escort to Aldergrove airport from where he intended to fly to London to lobby James Callaghan, the British Home Secretary. The young man in charge who later became a well known Republican detailed two men to take him to the airport.

Gerry Fitt was not wrong to fear assassination on the way to the airport.  Areas of Ardoyne were still under attack by armed Unionists.  Later that morning Frank ‘Dip’ Campbell took me around various Catholic halls in the Falls and Ardoyne.  These halls were filled to bursting point with women, children and men who had been driven out of their homes by Unionist mobs.  Many of the women and children were in their nightclothes. Some children had only pyjama tops. Later in the day Catholic families began to leave Belfast for the Free State. By the end of August several thousands had gone. This represented the largest forced population movement in Europe since the aftermath of the Second World War.

Our first efforts at broadcasting were from a house in Andersonstown.  The set we had would broadcast but had a very limited radius.  We needed a bigger and better transmitter. We also needed to find someone who really knew how to set up a transmitter capable of being heard all over Belfast.

Money was a problem.  The PD treasurer was away on her holidays.  Without her signature we could not access whatever funds PD had. I managed to sell some shots of the backs of our heads to the ‘World in Action’ crew.  I think Michael also gave them an interview.  We got eighty pounds cash and twenty pounds for Francie as a “location fee”.  It was in Francie’s house we were filmed. Francie had little time for PD and with that legendary Belfast frankness he told me “Yis are eejits but thanks for the money.”

With this money we found a young man who was a highly skilled broadcasting enthusiast.  He built us a transmitter which with the right length of aerial attached could be heard over an eighteen mile radius. We were powerful enough to blot out Manx Radio and we broadcast on its wavelength. “Radio Free Belfast, the voice of freedom and revolution” established itself above the Long Bar in Leeson St in the Lower Falls Rd. The station played records, usually of a Republican nature and had a news bulletin every hour.  Eddie Toman turned up and proved to be an excellent DJ.  “For the boys on the barricade in Albert St, for Maggie in Sultan St, for Jimmy, from Rosie in the Bone, for the lads in Ballymurphy, for Joe in Cromac Square here is “Tom Williams”.

The McPeake Family, well known traditional musicians played live on the radio.  Eugene McEldowney, Joe Mulhearn and others sang live on it.  John Gray did a number of satirical sketches.  For one of those he lifted the needle off a record in mid-play and did a five minute take-off of Dr Paisley.  The main burden of  John’s spiel was that Roman Catholic women in the Falls were putting strychnine in the cups of tea which they were handing out to the British soldiers. The following morning I found out how effective John’s performance had been.  On my way up Cyprus St I was stopped by a middle-aged lady who said, “Yis went off the air last night, son, and that bastard Paisley came on. His chat was terrible.” I decided not to explain matters.  Satire had not yet become fashionable in the Falls.

On 16 August the British  Army marched up the Falls.  From a street corner I watched them go by. The Conway Mill was covered in black smoke.  There was some applause for them.  The people were frightened.  The man beside me spat in the gutter and said, “I never thought I would see the British military clapped on the Falls Rd.”   At the time I was struck by the youth of the troops and was surprised to note that many of their uniforms did not fit very well.

There was a theatrical aspect to this deployment since at all times there were roughly 7,000 British troops stationed in Northern Ireland. There was no need to make a flourish of deploying troops from England. Presumably the Labour government thought that the “optics” would be better if this fact was glossed over. This was my first glimpse of the unveiling of the fiction that the British Army was, or is, a neutral force doing its best to separate irrational warring factions. The British government work hard to maintain this fiction right up to the present day.It must be intended for domestic and international consumption, since neither the Protestant nor the Catholic community  believe a word of it.

We were now living in an area barricaded off from the rest of the city. The Central Citizens Defence Committee was the umbrella body co-ordinating the vigilantes who manned the barricades and kept law and order in an area from which the RUC had been excluded.  The CCDC included representatives  of the IRA, the Catholic Church and the occasional local nationalist politician.

In practice the vigilantes were local men supervised by members of the IRA. There were not all that many actual members of the IRA although there was a larger number of older men who had been in the IRA but had dropped out for one reason or another. One cohort of this group had dropped out because they distrusted the Garland/Goulding leadership of the IRA.  They were planning to replace that particular leadership and, when that proved impossible, they played a considerable role in establishing the Provisional IRA.  Garland was well aware of much of this plotting but for some reason he got the notion that these people were being encouraged by ‘Trotsykists’.  Michael Farrell was quite wrongly identified by Garland as a trotsykist who was trying ‘to split the Republican movement’.  Michael and myself were not trying to split the Republican movement, and, if we had been, we were in no position to do anything of the kind.

All this paranoid fantasy made for tensions between ourselves and some Belfast republicans. Jimmy Sullivan from Leeson St would point his revolver at me occasionally and accuse me of ‘trying to split the Republican movement’. One of his followers fired a Luger pistol in my face. It had a full magazine but, presumably by design, he had not put ‘one up the spout’ so it did not go off.

Of course, as people did at the time, we had “principled disagreements”. The IRA leadership disapproved of the slogan “Smash Stormont”. We found this rather weird but their Belfast representatives would patiently explain that Stormont was an Irish institution which needed reform not smashing. It was fairly clear that some of the people explaining this notion did not believe it themselves.

We made the occasional attempt at political analysis on the radio. After a while the IRA demanded typescripts of everything broadcast on the radio. We supplied these, efficiently typed up and indeed sometimes largely written by Colin McAteer. Finally the Dublin leadership sent Dalton Kelly down to censor the material before it was broadcast.  Dalton was equipped with a real blue pencil. He was particularly disturbed by the use of the word ‘imperialism’ – as in, “The British Army is the mercenary army of imperialism.” Dalton thought this might give the ignorant masses the impression that we were communists. Since he was following the orders of a Republican leadership which was trying to get the Soviet Union to recognize them as leaders of the Irish working class, we found the situation rather odd, but we could also see the funny side of it.  Myles na Gopaleen at his most manic could hardly have made it up.

The pubs were shut at seven o’clock every evening. A young Protestant socialist who turned up with a Cuban poster showing an image of Jesus with a machine pistol was threatened with death and had his poster burnt. He was accused of coming deliberately from the Protestant Shankill to give us all a bad name as atheistic communists  It began to dawn on me that life in a 32 county socialist republic led by Sean Garland and co. would not be much fun.

In spite of these hiccups Free Belfast was quite a success. The people of the Lower Falls liked the radio and they showered us with sandwiches, cigarettes and even chocolates.  My abiding memory of the Lower Falls is of the generosity of people who were by no means well off but had  a vibrant community spirit.  I stayed in the house of Frank Campbell Snr.  Frank had been in Mountjoy jail the morning that the Free State murdered Liam Mellowes, Richard Barrett, Rory O’Connor and Joe McKelvey.  When the Civil War was over Frank returned to Belfast.  In 1924 he was standing outside St Peter’s Church in the Lower Falls.He was waiting to sell a Republican newspaper to people coming out of Mass. Before the Mass was over a mob, urged on from the pulpit, emerged and broke his arm.  In the 1920’s the Falls Road was very much the fiefdom of “Wee” Joe Devlin and the AOH. Joe Devlin was the Westminster MP for the area and twice defeated De Valera in electoral contests.  In 1969 the area was represented at Westminster by Gerry Fitt who called his organization The Republican Labour Party. It was said, perhaps unfairly, of this organization that it was neither Republican, Labour nor a Party.  Eamonn McCann claimed that Gerry held its annual conference in a telephone box  In fact, in both the ‘20s and the ‘60s the dominant political force in the area was the Catholic Church.  Both Joe Devlin and Gerry Fitt were careful not to cross the Catholic Church.

Towards the end of ‘Free Belfast’ we saw the power of the Church at first hand.  Although the Church was well represented on the Central Citizens Defence Association (CCDA) Dr Philbin, the Bishop of Down and Connor, viewed the barricading off of a substantial portion of his flock with suspicion.  He sought an opportunity to reassert his primacy in matters temporal as well as spiritual.  After lengthy negotiations with the British Army the CCDA agreed to take all the barricades down on a fixed date.  Two days before the appointed date Dr Philbin turned up in Peel St in the Lower Falls.  He was accompanied by Canon Patrick Murphy. They persuaded some people in Peel St to start dismantling their barricade.  Alerted by a vigilante we went round to Peel St.  I asked the Bishop if I might ask him a question: “Of course, my son.”

“How does it come that a Catholic Bishop comes here at the head of the British Army?  Canon Murphy was annoyed by this piece of impertinence.  He flung his hat on the ground and roared, “You should be down on your knees in front of your Bishop.”  I made no reply to this but a local man who was there with his Alsatian on a lead said, “Fuck that chat”.  He then gave the Alsatian a tug and it lunged in the direction of Canon Murphy. Someone else told the Bishop that if he were a Nationalist MP instead of a Bishop he would throw him over the barricade.  The Bishop began to cry and the clerical party withdrew.  We went back to the Long Bar satisfied that the Peel St barricade would stay for another two days.

Within hours a Catholic mob, mobilized by Canon Murphy, was roaming the area looking for the people “who had told the Bishop to fuck off.”  Nobody had told the Bishop to fuck off but we did not try to explain. The mob did not enter the Long Bar, discretion being the better part of even clerically inspired valour, and they dispersed before dark.

   THE LONG BAR

 

 Our radio was established in a room above the Long Bar.  The bar was so called because it had an entrance in Leeson St and another one in Cyprus St. It was a handy cut through from one street to the other. I have since learnt that it was owned by Paddy Leneghan, the father of President McAleese, but at the time I had no idea who owned it. I did have the vague impression that Jimmy Sullivan had something to do with it. Certainly not much happened around the Long Bar without Jimmy’s approval.

In a large room upstairs the CCDA held press conferences. These were attended by a wide selection of the international press.  At one of these Jimmy Sullivan took questions. Most questions were easily answered.  However, Anthony Kershaw of “The Financial Times” asked who was in control of the barricaded area.  Without hesitation Jimmy said that the army was in charge of the area.  Jimmy meant the IRA. The British Army was “the military”.  Another member of the panel straightened the situation out by saying that a committee of elected delegates was in control of the area.  Alone among the Irish and British press the following day’s editorial in the “FT”  revealed that Kershaw had understood Jimmy perfectly.  The editorial said “Things are not all they appear to be in Free Belfast”.

Individual journalists would turn up at the “Long Bar” looking for a bit of local colour. We dealt with them as best we could. One I remember was Max Hastings who later famously liberated Port Stanley in the Falklands. Even as a young man Max was a bit of an expert on military affairs. He told us frankly that we were in a very weak position and were it not for the goodness of the British Army we would find ourselves trapped “like rats in a hole”.  The image irritated one of the IRA Volunteers who told me to ask Max if he knew why Twadell Avenue was called Twadell Avenue.  I duly asked Max if he knew why the notorious flashpoint was so called. Max did not.  “Tell him to fuck off and find out”, said the volunteer. Max went away. I don’t know if he ever found out since he never came back. ( Twadell was a Unionist senator shot dead by the IRA during the pogroms of the early ‘20s).

We also were visited by people from all over Ireland and Britain.  A young English woman called Sarah turned up with her even more youthful looking partner. She said that if she were given the money she would set up a silkscreen press and produce posters. I gave her twenty pounds and the pair of them moved into the basement of the Long Bar. Sarah was as good as her word. She did Trojan work and produced a series of handprinted posters.  Today these are collector’s items.

From Dublin, Margaret Gaj, Dr Maire Woods and Mairin De Burca came with money and, if my memory serves me right, gas masks. They were accompanied by Des Geraghty who was in the Republican movement but did not seem to share the paranoid fears of Garland.  Neither did Mairin De Burca who was at the time Secretary of Sinn Fein.

Madge Davidson the leader of the Young Communist League (YCL) came along with a delegation.  Madge had been born and bred into the Communist Party of Northern Ireland (CPNI) both her parents having been members.  She was also I imagine, the oldest “Young Communist” in the world.  Madge regarded us as “ultra-leftist” enemies of the Party’s plans but she was quite nice about it.

We had other, less welcome visitors.  Anthony Coughlan, C. D. Greaves’s  leading apostle in Ireland hovered around for a few days watching the “ultra-leftist” enemy at work.  Clancy Segal, the left wing writer from Chicago came and told us that we were ‘assholes’  who did not understand what revolution was about.  There was quite a lot of truth in this observation but it was not much appreciated at the time.

Late one night we had a visit from one of  the Free State army intelligence officers who were operating in Northern Ireland at the time.  He had a tape recorder and said he was an RTE reporter.  It was quickly obvious that he was not.  He had had a few drinks before he arrived and began to accuse us of being Marxists like the people running the radio station in the Bogside.  We walked him down to the bottom of Leeson St and put him out on the Grosvenor Rd.  The men on the barricade advised him not to come back.  There were quite a number of these undercover Free State officers in Northern Ireland  in 1969.  One of them worked for An Bord Bainne as a cover. “Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth,” people would say as he passed.

Memory is capricious and most of what went on in ‘Free Belfast’ has long disappeared from mine. I have one vivid memory of the man who cleared the tables and swept up around the Long Bar.  The pubs shut at 7.00 pm but he kept a crate of beer in his house.  Frank ‘Dip’  Campbell and myself went around there about midnight once.  He gave us a bottle of beer and then dozed off in front of the fire.  Something in what we were talking about aroused him.  He went upstairs and came down with two cards.  One was a membership card of the Communist Party of Canada.  The other was a membership card of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the American section of the International Brigades who had fought Franco in the Spanish Civil War.  After the withdrawal of  the Brigades from Spain he had returned to the Lower Falls.  “When did you leave the Party”? I asked him.  “In 1941”,  he replied,.  “I found out then that there were Orange communists and Green Communists.  I was a Green communist.”  This was a fascinating insight into the depth of the division in Northern Ireland.  Alone of the world’s Communist Parties the Communist Party of Ireland refused to openly side with the Soviet Union when Hitler and Stalin went to war in 1941.  Instead the Party officially dissolved itself.  In Northern Ireland the CPI was replaced by the CPNI, the Communist Party of Northern Ireland.  The CPNI enthusiastically supported the Allied cause.  Indeed, on one occasion, Betty Sinclair, later chairman of NICRA, called for the Special Powers Act to be used against strikers in the shipyard. These ‘saboteurs’ were harming the Allied war effort.  The CPNI proved too much for our friend who left the party rather than support Britain in a war with anybody.

The barricades finally came down.  ‘Free Belfast’ was over at least for 1969.  As the streets were cleared we moved our transmitter out of the area.  I left the transcripts in a bar in Durham St intending to collect them later.  Kevin Boyle picked them up and I have never seen them since.  Sometimes I would like to have a look at them, not because of their political content, but because I would like to see Dalton Kelly’s blue pencil marks.

Peter Cosgrove comes from Roslea, Co Fermanagh.  He was educated at St Columb’s College and Queen’s University.  He lives in Leitrim.

 This short work is only my own memory of what happened in 1969 when Northern Ireland imploded.  I have tried to stick to matters of which I had personal experience.   The detailed history of 1969 is now widely available.  Anyone interested can refer to numerous accounts of that year.

I am indebted to many people, some of whom do not want to be named.  A special word of thanks to my late partner, Alison Fowles, to Eddie and Geraldine Toman,, to Pauric Fallon, to Tom Ronayne and to my sister Kathleen Cadden.  Needless to say I alone am responsible for the finished product. (copyright Peter Cosgrove)

 

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One response to “Peoples Democracy Member 1969 Part 2

  1. Pingback: Peoples Democracy Member 1969 – by Peter Cosgrove Part Two | The Cedar Lounge Revolution·

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