LARGE crowds gathered for the first day of the Féile festival with a discussion between Andrée Murphy and Danny Morrison on Morrison’s book Free Statism and ‘The Good Old IRA' one of the highlights of the day.

The lecture hall at St Mary’s University College on the Falls Road was filled as Andrée introduced the event. Morrison began the discussion taking us back to 1986 after he had been elected in Mid Ulster to the Assembly. The Assembly soon collapsed and he was back in Dublin. He described how a few students including Brian McDonnell were working in the National Archives and were researching IRA attacks during the Tan War and realised that if you put your hand over the towns that it could be Tyrone, South Armagh or Belfast, because exactly the same things were happening at that time.

On the back of this information and his own researching, Morrison published a pamphlet entitled ‘The Good Old IRA’ with a short introduction from himself. Whilst no longer in print today, the original pamphlet can be found online in PDF format. 

The audience at Thursday's talk in St Mary's University College

The audience at Thursday's talk in St Mary's University College

Years later, someone asked Morrison whatever happened to the pamphlet. He said that he took the old pamphlet out to write another 1,500 words introduction but the more he looked at it, the angrier he became and the longer he wrote, until it became a fully-fledged book.

He states that this is when he began to see ‘Free Statism’ everywhere.

‘‘In January or February of this year, the Irish Times and the Shelboune Hotel had a poetry competition for young people, ‘what it means to be Irish today’ and when you read the fine print you weren’t allowed to enter if you were from the North.

‘‘Terminology such as Ireland and Northern Ireland instead of North and South has been emphasised by the RTÉ. For instance, on the Late Late Show one night they showed a map of Ireland and 1.9 million people were part of the North Atlantic, they had completed disappeared us from the map.

‘‘There is an attitude – and this book deals with it," he told those gathered.

Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act was also discussed as Morrison states: "They said it was to stop the IRA but it applied to Sinn Féin and trade unionists as well."

He added: ‘‘They realised that if they didn’t suppress the voices of nationalists being heard in the South, they knew that would only increase sympathy for the North.’’

He recalled Cllr Paddy Wright phoning into the RTÉ about a gardening programme because he was into roses – and they banned him. 

‘‘RTÉ Section 31 could interview the RUC and the British Army for shooting people on the Falls Road but they couldn’t interview the victims," he said.

The crowd was engaged with interaction throughout the discussion and the talk closed with a series of questions from the audience.

Following the event, Morrison’s book was available for purchase. Danny’s latest book ‘Life, I do not Understand You’ is also available now.