Corbyn’s understanding of Ireland’s “Troubles” proven right by history
Scene in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the height of "The Troubles." Right wingers in Northern Ireland with support in England appear to be stirring up trouble again. | AP

LONDON – Despite the force of the Tory mantra, it appears the electorate has rumbled that a government led by Theresa May would be neither strong nor stable, but instead would bring five more years of attacks on the poor and sick, an increase in zero-hours jobs, the privatization of the NHS and further struggle for the working class outside the EU while ensuring the wealth of the rich and privileged continues to grow.

Knowing Labor cannot be attacked for its policies, which are becoming increasingly popular, the Conservatives, in true “nasty party” fashion, have reverted back to “Plan A” by attacking Jeremy Corbyn personally.

After the suspension of campaigning through the horrific murders in Manchester at the hands of a person whose name doesn’t deserve to be mentioned on these pages, Corbyn stated that the UK’s exploits in the Middle East had done little to reduce terrorism on our streets.

May seized on this opportunity to sickeningly accuse Corbyn of political opportunism over the Manchester attack, which killed 22 people and injured many others, once again dragging out the well-documented but false allegation of Corbyn being an IRA sympathizer.

May’s comments gave the green light to her friends in the mainstream media to challenge Corbyn over these claims at every opportunity, which conveniently deflected the attention from Labor’s popular policies which, according to opinion polls, have reduced the Tory lead, while her own manifesto appears to unravel day by day.

Time and again Corbyn was asked by political reporters to condemn the IRA. Time after time he answered by saying that he condemned bombings on all sides.

Those asking the question completely missed the irony that by raising the old subject of the IRA, it was they, not Corbyn, who were trying to exploit a long period in history which cost the lives of over 3,000 people and turn it into political gain for the Tory Party.

By accident or design, it appears these so-called professional journalists seem to confuse the term “understanding” with “condoning” — terms that I can fully relate to through my own past experience, which set me out on a road of enquiry many years ago.

In 1972, as a young 18-year-old soldier, I served in both Londonderry (Derry) and Belfast, and witnessed events on all sides that will stay with me forever.

I know what it’s like to be shot at (more than once) and to lose three comrades to IRA snipers. I have experienced the aftermath of sectarian killings, be it by bullet or bomb.

I guess most former soldiers would have experienced some or all of these events too, however, this is where the connection between us ends.

Unlike the majority of those who served in Northern Ireland, I have been openly critical of the role of the security forces and successive governments during the period of the Troubles.

This has led to me too being labelled everything from IRA supporter to terrorist sympathiser. Again, the confusion seems to stem from the words “understand” and “condone.”

I was critical because I witnessed how the Catholic community suffered unnecessary treatment at the hands of the security forces, some of which was not only unlawful, but also damaging to the role which I believed the British army was there to fulfil.

Moreover, I would argue those actions helped to turn the Catholic community — which in the early days of the Troubles was supportive or at least indifferent to the British army — firmly against its presence in Northern Ireland.

On reflection, I can see why the Catholic community felt aggrieved at being disadvantaged in what appears to be every aspect of civil rights.

I can comprehend the frustration and anger as parents tried to clothe and feed their children while all the time being faced with inequality and poverty.

I shudder to think what it was like in 1971, being subject to a curfew because you were a Catholic living in the Falls Road and having your possessions broken and floorboards ripped up during the search for weapons that the majority of people never had.

I can understand the fear of children watching as their fathers and older brothers (it was predominately men) were stopped, searched and, on occasions, physically and/or verbally assaulted, before being taken away for “screening.”

I have absolutely no idea how I would comfort my young children while soldiers with camouflaged, blacked faces carrying rifles woke them in their bed as they search the wardrobes, toy boxes and under the mattresses they sleep on.

I can’t imagine how I would react if a member of my family was shot dead by the security forces who had claimed that they were armed and had fired first when I knew that it was a blatant lie — when no weapon existed and the authorities covered up the act, leaving an uphill struggle for the relatives to obtain justice for the victim.

Having witnessed some of these events, can I understand why some people chose to join the IRA? Yes. Can I understand why they would want to harm the security forces? Yes. Do I condone the killing of anyone? No. And that’s the difference.

Does this make me a terrorist sympathizer? Absolutely not. What my experience did was provide me with an understanding of why someone may choose to join a terrorist organization.

Corbyn came to the conclusion that talking and compromise were the only solutions to the Troubles many years before the peace talks began — and history shows he was right.

This was because he took the time to understand the situation, which is a far cry from condoning what was being done.

Finally, Corbyn is correct in suggesting the UK’s actions abroad have done nothing to reduce the risk of terrorism and a fundamental change of policy is required.

Like in the ’70s, Corbyn once again understands the situation, and this will make him an excellent prime minister come June 9.

The above story is reprinted from the Morning Star. The author witnessed first hand the carnage of sectarian killings in Northern Ireland and is today horrified at the media’s smearing of Corbyn as an “IRA sympathizer.”


Richard Rudkin
Richard Rudkin

Former soldier Richard Rudkin witnessed first-hand the carnage of sectarian killings in Northern Ireland. He writes for Morning Star, the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.