By Fr Des WIlson (for Andersonstown News)
Forty years after the attacks on homes and people in 1969, we are hearing new descriptions of what happened. The simple fact is that rather than allow normal civil rights the unionist regime encouraged its followers to create a “final solution”.
This final solution could be: 1) Destruction of, or displacing from the state, most Catholics, or 2) Driving Catholics out of areas where they were putting the voting pattern in danger of change and/or 3) Reducing the Catholic population to a manageable one-third as it had been when the unchangeable unionist regime was first set up. The civil rights movement asked for - later demanded - normal rights as defined by the British state, not as defined by an Irish state.
There was minority support among some unionists for some civil rights, including some members of the young unionists. There was some support among some Protestant clergy, a few liberals like Rev Albert McElroy. But not enough among churches or clear-sighted unionists to make notable civil rights possible. Paisley, Porter and others had laid the foundations of a deep distrust based on false statements about the dangers posed by the Catholic population and the IRA. The Catholic population was powerless, unarmed and in a mood for compromise even to the extent of asking for civil rights within a British controlled state; the IRA was unarmed and powerless too.
The final solution was based upon ideas like those against Jewish people in other parts of Europe, that they were becoming too powerful, were poised to seize power, that they would take people’s homes and jobs if allowed basic rights.
The 1969 attacks on homes in Bombay Street and other places were then inevitable. “Respectable” clergy told co-religionists that the Catholics would “outbreed” them - an insulting reference more suited to a description of rabbits. The less “respectable” prepared to burn them out. Since such pogroms had occurred on average every 12 years for about a hundred years, 1969 was not an exception for the regime, it was normal.
Just as in later years London governments would use untruths as a reason for going to war in Iraq, so the massive untruth was created that the real problem in Ireland’s northeast was that Protestants and Catholics could not live together in peace. The fact was that Protestants and Catholics in the northeast were so expert at living together that they had to be separated on average every 12 years by government-inspired pogroms, house-burnings, driving people out of mixed jobs and districts.
Now in 2009 we are still hearing this official version of the “inability of Catholics and Protestants to live together” from news agencies of Dublin, London and Belfast. Catholics and Protestants had been going to live in the same housing estates, the same areas of private property, to work in the same work places, falling in love and marrying, while in large schools deemed ‘Protestant’ the proportion of Catholic pupils would eventually become about 25 per cent. Time and time again government-inspired destroyers deliberately and in well-armed fashion disrupted such successful efforts to integrate.
This reality the BBC, RTe and other government agencies refuse even to discuss. When the final solution did not succeed it was because this time there was resistance and determination.
From the demand for civil rights within a British regime, the idea grew and grew that such was impossible, that if London conceded civil rights their regime would collapse. Whether that is correct or not remains to be seen while London still concedes as little as possible.
But a “final solution” like that of 1969 is no longer possible.