OPENING UP NEW FRONTS
WHILST it is premature to assume that the protests in H-Block and Armagh Jail have been resolved, and whilst extreme vigilance is still required, it will do no harm to consider the fronts republicans will have to pour their energies into, and the fronts they will have to open up in the freedom struggle when the present prison crisis has been eventually settled.
Many lessons were learnt. The peaceful and disciplined protests under the broad front of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee attracted, on a single issue, scores of thousands of people, and united people of different political persuasions as well as uniting the nationalist people in the North in a big way not seen since perhaps the early internment rallies nine years ago.
Rubbing shoulders with republicans dispelled for many of these non-republican, though nationally minded people some of the ill pre-conceived notions they had about republicans. For many republicans the experience has shown that thousands of people can be mobilised into a political force and, with a great deal of considered thought and planning, the lessons could possibly be put to greater use over the questions of the British occupation of the Six Counties and Irish self-determination.
But, before moving on, one big Brit myth needs to be disposed of.
The British have been persistently painting the H-Blocks as merely a propaganda plank for the IRA which it enjoyed and did not want removed. But events showed that the prisoners controlled their own protest and made their own decisions, that the movement on the outside made all efforts to resolve the protest, and that nobody but the Brits are into dragging their heels and prolonging the H-Block/Armagh deadlock.
One spillover from those who have swallowed, or consciously been part of, this British propaganda is the story presently being floated mainly in British newspapers, that the IRA and Sinn Féin do not know where to turn next because the prison protest is `amost over' and because the December Thatcher/Haughey summit meeting in Dublin (hyped up to `historical' proportions by the exuberant Haughey) has undercut republican support and the republican struggle.
Phoblacht, 17 January 1981