At the weekend, I was in Dublin, where I was born and brought up, mostly seeing old friends.

Published: 6 September 2022

When we got on to politics, there was the predictably gloomy view that there was no stopping the Shinners from getting into government.

Some of my friends are Fine Gael, some Fianna Fail and others look for left wing alternatives.

None of them is a supporter of Sinn Fein, since those who were republican-minded stopped having anything to do with me when I began writing about the IRA in the early 1990s.

The gloom came from the common view developed through hopeless arguments with grandchildren was that it is impossible to get the young to look beyond the Sinn Fein mask.

They don’t want to hear about or read about the past, they’re obsessed with change and they are falling for lies and glib promises.

There’s no hope, I was told.

How can Mícheál Martin — a good guy without charisma — and a flibberty gibbet like Leo Varadkar defeat them?

And won’t they just devour the split left-wingers?

‘Sinn Féin are winning the peace, as people forget the IRA’s war’ was a headline to a thoughtful article on that superb site Slugger O’Toole, from the journalist Andy Pollock, who has spent a life-time trying to encourage understanding, peace and reconciliation in Ireland.

He also assisted Seamus Mallon, one-time deputy first minister, to produce his memoir A Shared Home Place.

Mallon was an anti-sectarian nationalist who did not believe Irish unity was worth the shedding of a drop of anyone’s blood and believed a premature border poll would only foster disunity, leading, he wrote, to a “captured unionist minority inside a state from which they are completely alienated. Does that sound familiar?”

Pollock went on to praise and quote from Brouhaha, a novel I look forward to reading. From the comedian Ardal O’Hanlon (unforgettable as Father Dougal in Father Ted), it’s a murder mystery set during the peace process.

Forgive the long quotation, but I find this a brilliant insight into what’s happening with young voters.

At a public meeting in a border

town, a young reporter is asking a Sinn Fein councillor about his involvement in a young woman’s disappearance. She was flustered that not one person backed her up though not surprised that no actual party member would.

“It was not that sort of party – one that brooked dissent or internal debate or independent thought or any deviation whatsoever from the message.

“Your average aficionado and assorted hangers-on were, understandably, in their element at this point in time, carried away by the momentum, by the showing in the polls, by the intoxicating message of hope, of salvation, of a better world.

“They were carried away by the novelty of it all, and the youthful character of it, the sophistication of the Party machine, and, yes, perhaps the fetching whiff of sulphur was part of the attraction too. Nobody was denying it.

“But what was most appealing to people – people who were so often dismissed as losers – was the genuinely serious chance of being part of a winning team.”

We are almost thirty years on, but the horrifying tolerance from many nationalists for the killing campaign of the Provos is still with us.

Last week, Francie Molloy tweeted in praise of three IRA men known as the Drumnakilly Martyrs, killed in an SAS ambush 34 years previously: Gerard Harte, commander of mid-Tyrone IRA, his brother Martin and Brian Mullin, whom said Molloy Gerry Adams described as “good, decent, patriotic freedom fighters driven to fight for justice”.

Ian Acheson from Fermanagh, a distinguished political commentator and one-time prison governor responded. “For the avoidance of any confusion here, this is an MP for the UK parliament honouring 3 heavily armed IRA terrorists intercepted on their way to murder one of their Irish neighbours driving a delivery lorry and the softest of targets. *Executing the coal man for a new Ireland.*”

This moved the sports commentator Joe Brolly to respond with: “Let me just say Ian, IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA. I hope that clarifies the matter and we can move on to more IRA IRA IRA IRA IRA tomorrow & into infinity, if it makes you feel better, Which I hope it does. IRA IRA IRA IRA and IRA.”

The efforts of people like Ann Travers, whose sister was murdered by the IRA, to explain why IRA victims would find this upsetting, seemed to have no effect on Brolly, who appears to me to be one of many nationalists who think victims of the IRA should just shut up.

There was then the usual outpouring of bile delivered at any of us who stand up to republicans on Twitter. Which is why we need to go on doing that. Every day, for instance, the victims’ group (SEFF) South East Fermanagh Foundation reminds us of anniversaries of the murder of innocent people of all persuasions in Northern Ireland. The republican fellow travellers hate that.

We need more publicising on social media of the cruel reality of the past, more exposure of the sheer nastiness of the Sinn Fein cult, the viciousness of many supporters, their sickening contempt for their neighbours and the disgusting abuse of their critics.

The truth is the weapon to use against them.

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