I read recently on Northern Irish news website Slugger O’Toole that Enniscorthy, a town not 20 minutes from where I currently rest my head in County Wexford, has unanimously passed a motion to erect a memorial to the Edentubber Martyrs (see here). When I mentioned this to my partner, her reaction was quite possibly what yours would be; she said: “Who?” Well, during the IRA’s disastrous border campaign in the late 1950s, these five guys accidentally blew themselves, and the cottage they were in, to pieces with the bomb they were planning to plant in the North. As two of them were from Wexford, Enniscorthy Council have decided that they are worthy of a memorial. Seeing as I have serious problems with the IRA’s actions in Northern Ireland – whatever their reasons, it was, in my view, little more than a brutal murder campaign which achieved nothing bar filling graves and increasing hatred and grief – I believe that we should, at the very least, think twice about putting up monuments to men who were members of a still-illegal organisation, and whose actions were in direct violation of the laws of this state, then and now. Especially as such activities are mythologised by Republicans in order to recruit the next generation of volunteers (or, if one were being cynical, cannon fodder). Would the council be so keen to remember these men if their bomb had actually gone off where it was supposed to, and had (maybe) killed an RUC officer? Or a civilian? Not only that, but shouldn’t even a hardened Republican think twice about erecting a monument to guys whose only accomplishment was to accidentally kill themselves? Will they erect a monument to Gorey IRA man Edward O’Brien, who accidentally blew himself up on a bus in London in the nineties, killing himself and injuring three others (see here)? If an IRA man was on going on his way to shoot an RUC man, but got killed by a lorry while crossing the road, is he a martyr?
The only difference between the border campaign in the fifties and the vastly more prolonged, violent, and destructive campaign in the seventies and eighties was down to a question of timing; in the fifties, the conditions weren’t right for bloody mayhem, whereas by 1969 the chaos in the province was an ideal launching ground for paramilitarism (students of the period: I know this is a simplistic analysis, so if you disagree, please let me know). Therefore, in my opinion, a memorial to the Edentubber dead (they certainly weren’t martyrs!) is a tacit vote of approval for the bloody struggle which made Northern Ireland the jolly place it was for over thirty years (before the opposing factions decided that blowing up and shooting people wasn't an effective way of getting things done). If these men had survived, it's quite likely they would have stayed active and perhaps organised planting more bombs, in places such as Enniskillen. Rather than celebrating the Edentubber dead, we should be hoping that, in the future, measured discussion rather than murder is seen as the option of choice, and that their day is firmly in the past. I just have a problem with seeing men who are willing to kill others in cold blood (including me, and you, and anyone else who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the shrapnel is flying) as heroes, no matter how supposedly noble their motives.
Besides, before we consider uniting Ireland, we should take a long hard look at the 26 counties first. I would say that, thanks to Fianna Fail’s catastrophic stewardship of our economy, we couldn't afford a united Ireland even if it was offered to us. Yes, let’s have one nation under the gombeen! Citizens of Northern Ireland, welcome to NAMA-land! Join our pathetically badly run little state, and share with us our incompetent government, intent on making the poor and low-paid pick up the bill for the recklessness of property developers and bankers! Enjoy our shambolic health service, our awful roads, our worthless telecommunications infrastructure, and our overpriced goods and services! Share with us our corrupt banks and golden-circle business elite, not to mention our schools, still controlled by an organisation that protected paedophiles for half a century! Shoppers of the South: give up the bargains to be had north of the border, and take pleasure in being ripped off in a nation once agin! Let’s have a united Ireland that our young people can emigrate from! Hmmm, perhaps we should sort out the problems down here first before adding Ulster to the equation...
Anyway, here's a piece of music: