Republican News · Thursday 4 September 1997

[An Phoblacht]

The dead are owed the truth

By Mary Nelis

I heard the news of the car crash in Paris as I was sitting in bed reading an excellent book by Patrick Campbell, called Death in Templecrone.

It is an account of the Famine years in North west Donegal and the author describes how he accidentally discovered the effect of the Famine in the parish into which he was born some 80 years later. He describes the problems researching the book, and how little knowledge there was of the victims who died at the time and who now lie in unmarked graves; the location of most of them is long forgotten.

Now past my sleep, I listened to the BBC as they related every detail of the tragic accident and I recalled the words of Voltaire, ``to the living I owe respect but to the dead the truth''.

Will the truth about Sunday morning's deaths, as with the famine dead, ever really be known? The truth about the famine in Ireland is still not acknowledged by the British government or the imperialist establishment. Many of those in the aristocracy are the direct descendants of those involved in Ireland during the last century.

The limited accounts of that dark period of Irish history are only now emerging in the works of Thomas Gallagher, Aengus O Snodaigh and Patrick Campbell and in the many groups of people who 150 years after Black 47 are campaigning for a more open analysis of Ireland's past history. The debate as to whether the two million who died was genocide on the part of the British, will continue until the British acknowledge that their political and economic occupation of Ireland not only contributed to the deaths by starvation and disease of millions of Irish but also to the destruction of their culture and identity.

It was Solzhenitsyn who said that ``to forget the past is to lose both eyes''. Many indeed have lost both eyes, not only by forgetting the past but inherently in the present.

Uncovering the truth about the famine in Ireland may well help us to uncover the truth about contemporary famines in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zaire, Korea, the Sudan, Mexico, India. It may also help to put into perspective the world media reaction to the deaths of three people in Paris and their inaction, with a few notable exceptions, to the 14 million children alone who die each year from starvation and disease. The deaths of these children rarely make headline news. The media do not ask us to mourn this obscenity. There are no calls for public holidays, books of condolence, floral tributes or donations in lieu to the Royal Family. Flags will not fly at half mast for these children but then they didn't fly at half mast for the children murdered by plastic bullets, fired by the soldiers of regiments of which the late Diana was patron.

The media have gone into overdrive to reveal every detail about the accident and people have been summoned from every corner of the globe to recount their shock, sorrow etc. They have even told us that prior to her death, she was dining, in the manner of most millionaires, at the Ritz Hotel, which was owned by the Al Fayed family. Nothing has changed much in over 100 years. The rich and famous of this generation eat as well now as they did then and children starve now, as they did then.

In 1847, while the people of Templecrone died in their hovels and were buried in holes in the ground, the rich and famous were dining at Buckingham Palace.

The London Times gave a detailed account of the thousands who, attended and the luxury of it all. The meals were served on gold plates and consisted of salmon, veal, pheasant, shrimp, sides of beef, lamb and venison.

The Times didn't report the dreadful events in Ireland but then, as now, the truth owed to the dead will only be told if it suits the interests of the ruling class.

Investigative journalism and journalists are an endangered species. The events in Paris have exposed the contradictions and pretence of those in the media who project themselves as guardians of the nation's morality, exposing the arrogant, the powerful and the sanctimonious. It would indeed be a brave journalist who would halt the trend, already begun, towards the elevation of Diana to sainthood. Or what journalist would honestly state that the deaths of those tragically killed in Paris are but a symptom of a greedy consumerist, political economic system, as represented by the class to which they all belonged?

Diana in death, as in life, is being moulded by the media for immortality. Her memory, like that of Elvis, will live on.

Meanwhile out of respect for those who are really alive, we will continue the search for the truth of those who die, unreported by the world's press, but sincerely mourned by those who really love them.

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