HERE are two photographs. One is of a school. Totally destroyed. Levelled. Classrooms reduced to rubble. The work of students scattered across the ground. The other is of a hospital. Mickey and Minnie Mouse and other favourite Disney characters look down over floors strewn with the flotsam of war. Life-saving equipment destroyed. Walls and floors shattered by shrapnel. Both buildings were the target of rockets indiscriminately fired at civilian targets.
Had these images been taken in Ukraine and resulted from attacks by Russian war planes or rockets the international media would have plastered them over their front pages.
Politicians in the EU, Britain, the USA, and elsewhere, including Irish Government Ministers, would have been falling over each other to express their outrage and condemnation.
What the Russians are doing in Ukraine is totally and absolutely wrong and deserves being highlighted, exposed and opposed. But there is a need also to be consistent.
The photographs I refer to above were taken in Gaza in 2009 when I and some comrades visited the region for four days. In the intervening years the situation for Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip, in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has further deteriorated. A year ago Human Rights Watch published a damning report on the policies and actions of the Israeli State against the Palestinian people accusing it of committing the crime of apartheid and of crimes against humanity.
At the beginning of February Amnesty International published a 280-page report that also concluded that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people constitutes apartheid.
Last week video and photographs emerged of an 11-year-old Palestinian child being attacked by Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem. The terrified wee girl suffered a fractured jaw. This is not an isolated incident. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 2021 witnessed the killing of 76 Palestinian children by Israeli forces using tank-fired shells, live ammunition and missiles from warplanes, helicopters and drones. At the same time Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes – that are then occupied by Israeli settlers – and others have to watch as their homes are destroyed by Israeli bulldozers. Where is the international outrage at these actions? Are Palestinian children or adults any less deserving of our humanity than those Ukrainian citizens fighting desperately in defence of their homeland? Of course not.
Sanctions against Russia are a necessary response to its invasion of Ukraine. But many of those who support such sanctions rail against sanctions against Israel. This includes the Irish Government.
When reminded that seven years ago the Oireachtas voted to recognise the State of Palestine the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney says it can only happen as part of the peace process.
A peace process that doesn’t exist and that Israel has successfully undermined.
This is hypocrisy, especially from an Irish government that is currently on the UN Security Council and could provide real humanitarian leadership at this dangerous time.
Governments that support the right of the people of Ukraine to self-determination should also support the right of the people of Palestine to self-determination. Those who urge tough sanctions against Russia should also urge tough sanctions against Israel.
Too late for London to start rewriting Irish history
THIS year is the 25th anniversary of the World Book Day. This reminded me of the volume of publications produced by former republican prisoners. There is my own modest contribution and Danny Morrison’s offerings, including his current timely book about the false narrative from the Dublin establishment about the good old IRA.
Jim ‘Jazz’ McCann has given us a special insight into life on the blanket. Eoghan Mac Cormaic has just published PLUID, his personal take í nGaeilge of life in the H -Blocks, 1976-81. Big Laurny, Laurence McKeown, has published his prison memoir. Pat Magee has given us a compelling account of his experiences. Gerry Kelly has a new book of poetry to add to earlier works. They join Síle Darragh’s John Lennon Is Dead and Tom Hartley’s fine tomes on Belfast history. Rosaleen Walsh is another fine writer and a good poet. Ella O’Dwyer is exemplary. So is Tony Doherty from Derry. Jake Mac Siacais adds to the Gaeilge literature on the Irish penal experience. There are others too like Chrissie McAuley, and Lily Fitzsimmons who have produced their own stories and there are also compilations of women’s writing like In The Footsteps of Anne. Richard McAuley and I are publishing a new book on the Armagh women in the next few months.
Jim McVeigh only this week launched his new novel, Stolen Faith. I am minded to single out the late Brian Campbell for special mention. He and Laurny and others pioneered prison writings. There are others too. Playwrights, songwriters. Like Brendan McFarlane. The problem is that once you start to name names you are likely to leave someone out.
And of course the finest of our prison writers is Bobby Sands. As I write this I am very mindful that this time 41 years ago Bobby was on hunger strike and writing his prison diary on scraps of paper to be smuggled out. Bobby’s poetry, prose, political polemic and other writings in Irish and English are now part of the tradition.
So we republican authors have added a lot to the understanding of the struggle and in particular the prison struggle. Little wonder the British Government says it plans to commission an official history. They are too late.
• NOT GIVING UP
ON July 9 the people of Springhill and Westrock will mark 50 years since the massacre by British troops that left five local people dead. Three of those shot by British snipers were children. John Dougal was aged 16. Margaret Gargan was aged 13. David McCafferty was aged 15. Father Noel Fitzpatrick was based at Corpus Christi Church in Springhill and Paddy Butler was killed by the same bullet that struck Fr Fitzpatrick as the two tried to pull victims to safety.
Like the Ballymurphy Massacre that had occurred 11 months earlier in August 1971, the British Army claimed that those killed were shot during a gun battle with the IRA. They also claimed to have killed six gunmen.
At the weekend the families met with local representatives, including Aisling Reilly MLA, to organise for the 50th anniversary, to hear a legal update from their lawyer Pádraig Ó Muirigh, and to prepare for the inquest which the families hope will take place next year. The Springhill and Westrock families have never given up on getting justice and the truth of what happened on Sunday, July 9, 1972.
They are to be commended for their tenacity and courage in the face of British state efforts down through the years to thwart their efforts and cover up the actions of their soldiers.
• GAEILGE PRIDE
SEACHTAIN na Gaeilge is the biggest celebration of Irish language and culture in the world. The festival used to run for one week but became so popular it was extended. It now runs annually from March 1 to March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day.
Two years ago before Covid there were over 30,000 events held in Ireland and across the world with an estimated three quarters of a million people participating.
Seachtain na Gaeilge embraces language, music, dance and sport, and increasingly events on social media. Writers too have brought a focus to the language.
Is í Seachtain na Gaeilge an ceiliúradh is mó den Ghaeilge agus Cultúr na hÉireann ar domhan. Bhí an oiread sin ráchairt uirthi gur síneodh amach chuig coicís í. Bíonn sí ar siúl ó 1 Márta go dtí 17 Márta - Lá Fhéile Pádraig, achan bhliain. Bhí 30,000 imeacht ann ar fud na hÉireann agus an domhain roimh Covid agus measadh gur ghlac trí cheathrú milliún duine páirt iontu.