Irish Chronicles
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About the Author
I
IRELAND -
England's Vietnam
Table of Contents
Preface
Book Launch
Reviews
II

The Spanish Armada and the Irish Connection

III
From Pagan Rites to Civil Rights

with a foreword by Ivan Cooper

IV

Events, People and Places

Ω
Website by
Kevin M. Kelly

Publisher: Hugh W.L. Weir, Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co. Clare, Ireland [1998]

Illustrated: 126 pages

Internet details on the International O'Doherty Clan Association via www.odochartaigh.org or odochartaigh@comcast.net

The author for some years after 1988 was editor of Ar nDuthcas [Our Heritage], the O'Doherty Clan newspaper which reached a world-wide circulation of 7,500 copies.

 

  On Thursday 1st December 1955 a 42 year old black seamstress called Rosa Parkes refused an order to sit at the back of her local segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Nearly fifty four years later on the 20th January 2009 Barack Obama was sworn in as the first black President of the United States of America. While, by no means, did this end the struggle for civil rights and equality in America however, it did demonstrate how far the movement had progressed.

In January 1967 Fionnbarra ” Dochartaigh was one of 40 people who set up the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in Belfast. Forty three years and more than 3700 deaths later the Northern state epitomised by a 'Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people' has been transformed to the extent that there is a realistic possibility that an Irish Republican may soon become the First Minister of that Parliament.

What these episodes demonstrate is that positive change is possible given time, resilience and the will never to give up the fight for justice and equality. It also demonstrates how the various campaigns for human and civil rights around the world are linked in a fraternity of struggle. The second Northern Civil Rights march in Duke Street, Derry on the 5th October 1968 which was banned by police would not have taken place without the inspiring example of the students of Mexico City, at least 30 of who had been gunned down by police at a protest march in Tlatelico on the 2nd October. The media at the time tried to blame the protesters for 'provoking' the massacre. However in 2001 it was exposed that snipers from the Presidential guard shot at their own troops on the ground to provoke the massacre.

The civil rights movement succeeded in one of its objectives of splitting the monolith of Unionism; however it did not split it into equally sized factions. The UUP merely had its extreme wings clipped with the creation of the DUP and Alliance in 1970. Instead of a new united progressive Nationalist party entering into coalition with the moderate half of Unionism they continued to be excluded by the main body of Unionism who feared their support being undermined by accusations of treachery by the DUP.

To placate those who hypocritically demanded 'law and order' Derry was to experience its own massacre less that four years later when thirteen anti internment protesters were shot dead by the British parachute regiment on the 30th January 1972. Another, seriously wounded, died a few months later. This massacre, like those earlier in Mexico, or Kent State University in Ohio were not accidents but part of rival 'fraternity of oppression' designed to intimidate peaceful protesters off the streets and to provoke activists into acts of terrorist reprisal which would alienate their cause from mainstream popular support. This strategy is outlined in chapter five of Brigadier Frank Kitson's book 'Low Intensity Operations'.

Just as the oppressed seek to inspire and be inspired in turn by their acts of defiance so too do oppressors draw on examples from other oppressive regimes around the world and over time. The same inhuman and degrading techniques of torture used against hooded Irish internees in Northern Ireland in 1971 were used again by the British army in Iraq in recent years and by the American army in Afghanistan and Guantanemo bay.

Just as Britain unleashed her 'pseudo gang' loyalist death squads under the direction of British army 'special force' units like the FRU and MRF against the Nationalist community in the North of Ireland she had earlier used the same tactics and methods in Kenya and Cyprus. Equally America's 'Phoenix programme' led to the assassination of 19,000 Viet Cong suspects in Vietnam during the war while her 'School of the Americas' trained the leaders of South American death squads like 'Battalion 3-16' which killed at least 184 teachers, politicians and trade union leaders in Honduras in the 1980's, key members of which govern Honduras today. Even today the Shia death squad in Baghdad, known as the 'Black Crows', is linked to the American trained Iraqi interior ministry 'Wolf brigade' Special Forces and is modelled on death squads in El Salvador.

One could easily become disheartened by this seeming monolith of oppression if it were not for the inspiring example of Fionnbarra ” Dochartaigh and others like him who know only too well that 'in a time of universal deceit to tell the truth is a revolutionary act' and who will always fearlessly speak truth to power. He knows well the root cause of oppression is injustice, the root cause of injustice is corruption and the root cause of corruption is impunity. Any government that does not fear the exposure of its misdeeds, cannot fear their punishment and inevitable will act unjustly in its own self interest. Such states may seek to bribe or blackmail, journalists, trade unionists, community and opposition leaders to ignore their misdeeds. If this fails to work the State may seek to legislate to censor, proscribe, and demonise all opposition while legalising its own criminality. If this fails to work, charismatic leaders like Martin Luther King, Steve Biko, Archbishop Romero, and Nelson Mandela must be silenced either by the assassinsí bullet or the jailersí keys. However, all societies built on such corrupt foundations are bound to collapse under the sheer weight of their own hypocritical contradictions, inefficient discrimination and inner shame. Like an unstoppable force of gravity all corrupt states long for their own extinction, like Dostoevsky's criminal who longs for his own conviction as his only liberation from a self destructive guilt complex.

Gandhi's campaign of 'non violent resistance' or ' Satyagraha' sought to harness these internal weaknesses to overthrow a system of imperial control which mesmerised even Hitler. However, the term 'non violence' is perhaps a misnomer for this campaign because there was plenty of violence, only all of it came from the batons, boots and fists of the state side. Gandhi believed that it was important not to confuse, non violence with pacifism. Gandhi wanted to raise a disciplined volunteer army of 'fighters for peace' who would wage battles of wills time and time again by subjecting themselves to the persecution, beatings, arrest, imprisonment at the hands of their enemies, all without uttering so much as an angry word. Gandhi was an optimistic, opportunist who believed that when all life gives you are lemons, and then you make lemonade. If Britain was going to force India to fight for her independence, then she should do so in such a way that would make India, physically, psychologically, spiritually and intellectually stronger and may also improve the character of her adversary and the world in general.

Regardless of Britain's superiority, in weapons, organisation and finance, Gandhi knew he would win, not because of the superior numbers of Indians, nor the great distance from the Imperial homeland but because "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will". Or as the hunger striker Terrence Mc Sweeney said ďIt is not he who can inflict the most, but he who can endure the most who will conquer". Therefore true non violent resistance is a weapon of the strong, not the weak, who consciously chose this method not because they lack any alternative but in preference to any alternative.

Too often national liberation and decolonisation by warfare and force of arms left a bitter legacy of victors and vanquished. The native population succeeded not so much in expelling the invader as taking their place. Gandhi offered an alternative, where warfare sought to destroy the invaders capacity to occupy their colony, non violent resistance sought to create a moral crisis within the oppressor and destroy their will to occupy. Instead of becoming the vanquished the former oppressors would become unwitting partners in a process of transformation which would liberate not only the colonised but the coloniser from the injustice of colonial oppression.

Of course this process takes time. It took India nearly 30 years from the Armritsar massacre in 1919 to attain her independence in 1947. South Africa had no easy walk to freedom from the Sharpsville massacre in 1960 to Nelson Mandela's election in 1995. Who knows how long will it take for the flowers watered by the blood of the civil rights martyrs of 1972 to bloom?
A clear pattern in the struggle for civil liberties, human rights and decolonisation has emerged, as Gandhi said "first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win!"

I was both honoured and humbled to be asked to write this preface for the writings of one of the Titans and founding members of Ireland's civil rights movement.

The example that civil rights campaigners like Fionnbarra ” Dochartaigh teaches us is that regardless of the odds or the obstacles placed in our way, if you believe in the justice of your cause, endure whatever your opponents throw at you and relentlessly persist in exposing the truth.... WE SHALL OVERCOME, SOME DAY!

Paul Mc Guill,
Secretary, Irish National Congress
St. Patrickís Day, 2010.

 
Irish Chronicles I:
IRELAND -
England's Vietnam
By Fionnbarra ” Dochartaigh
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