Irish Republican News · February 21, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
‘Should have been open war’, say unionists

The Belfast Assembly repeatedly descended into an angry shouting match this week over the suggestion that the conflict in the North should be classified as a war in order to begin the healing process.

The DUP and Ulster Unionist party also said the conflict should have been declared a war, which would have allowed current Sinn Féin Assembly members to be “put six feet under”.

Assembly members were continually called to order in a tense confrontation which heard the leader of the nationalist SDLP, Mark Durkan, dubbed a “Provo lover”.

DUP Assemblyman William McCrea said: “In many ways, I wish that it had been declared a war, because our army could have taken the Provos on and they would have been put six feet under where they belong. Sad to say, that did not happen.”

His remarks came after Ulster Unionist David Burnside said in some ways he wished that it had been declared a war back in the late 60s and early 70s.

“The RUC, the Ulster Special Constabulary, the UDR and the regular Army were not allowed to fight a war. If we had, there would be many fewer of the current elected representatives sitting on the (Sinn Féin) benches.”

Sinn Féin’s Francie Molloy asked if Mr Burnside’s remarks were a threat. He pointed out that the British government, through Home Secretary Reginald Maudling, had odeclared that they were at war with the Provisional IRA.

“The nationalist and republican people know that there has been a war for 800 years, during which the British Army and the British Government have occupied this country against the will of the people,” he said.

“They armed the loyalist murder squads and, as they have done in every other country around the world, they adopted the policy of divide and conquer.”

Mr Durkan said: “The DUP does not have the right to propose a motion that deals with the past in a partial and emotive manner”, when he was interrupted and South Antrim DUP member Trevor Clarke shouted: “Provo lover!”

After further interventions, Mr Durkan came back: “Rather than jumping in irrationally and emotionally, what we all need to do is allow Eames, Bradley and the others who are dealing with the issues to deal with them.

“We are hearing lectures from the man who shared a platform with [unionist paramilitary leader] Billy Wright, yet he dares to call me a Provo lover?”

Sinn Féin West Belfast Assembly member Jennifer McCann accused the unionists parties of “political point scoring” and of ignoring the concerns of the victims of the conflict.

At the end of a degenerating debate, the motion “repudiating that the 30 year terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland be re-classified as a ‘war’” was passed by 46 votes to 20.


Meanwhile, there have been calls for an end to British Army helicopter training manoeuvres in the Six Counties.

A recent incident saw a teenage girl thrown from her horse after it became spooked by a low-flying helicopter in Portglenone, County Antrim. The horse then fell too, landing on the girl’s leg.

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster assembly member Francie Molloy said the girl, who was briefly hospitalised, had a lucky escape.

He said he was very concerned that low flying military helicopters were now commonplace in the area which is used for military training exercises.

The British Army has been using the River Bann between Toome and Portglenone as a training area for helicopter pilots in preparation for Iraq and Afghanistan.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News