Republican News · Thursday 31 August 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Brighton Bomb was a turning point - Magee

Former republican prisoner Pat Magee, in an interview with The Sunday Business Post, has spoken publicly about the bombing of the Tory Party's 1984 annual conference in Brighton and of his support for the peace process.

``In lieu of the capacity to wipe out the IRA, the long-term strategy was to depict us as criminals while containing the war within the North,'' he told the Post's Tom McGurk. ``As long as the war was kept in that context, they could sustain the years of attrition. But in the early 1980s we succeeded in destroying both strategies. The hunger strike destroyed the notion of criminalisation and the Brighton bombing destroyed the notion of containment.

``I regret the deaths at Brighton,'' said Magee. ``I deeply regret that anybody had to lose their lives, but at the time did the Tory ruling class expect to remain immune from what their frontline troops were doing to us? From the mid-1970s on, the two principal considerations for the British in dealing with the IRA were criminalisation and containment.

``Until Brighton we were not being taken seriously by the British political establishment, we were trapped in the acceptable level of violence strategy and it's important to remember that the only way we could have lost this war was to be trapped in indefinitely fighting it.''

``After Brighton, anything was possible and the British for the first time began to look very differently at us; even the IRA itself, I believe, began to fully accept the priority of the campaign in England.''

When asked about the reported anger of Norman Tebbit's wife, permanently paralysed in the explosion, Magee said: ``Mrs Tebbit is entitled to her anger. But on a wider scale I must ask were the Tory classes in Britain completely oblivious to what they were inflicting on our communities? Did they never think that one day their turn might come?''

Reflecting on the republican struggle and the developing peace process, Pat Magee said: ``The last 30 years has been a process where we gained or garnered political strength. In fact, the military campaign facilitated that development. The hunger strike accelerated our political nexus; it began all this. It showed people how much could be achieved politically. Of course at the time we had the ballot box and armalite strategy, the halfway house so to speak, but that too was a transitional phase. If you look at Irish history, particularly the republican story, what defeated us in the past was lack of unity, especially between the soldiers and the politicians.

``This time around there is absolute determination to maintain that unity. The decommissioning scenario, for example, was intended to fragment this and it was a deeply frustrating brake on progress. But at the end of the day you had to carry your own support base. And if anything we are here today where we are because that task was carried out successfully. What we have done is to use time against an attritional backdrop to develop politically.''

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