Letter to the Editor – San Francisco Chronicle- IRA

Time: 13 minutes
The Farmers Union
A California Corporation
P. O. Box 68
San Jose, CA 95103

November 24, 1972

Mr. Charles de Young Thieriot
Editor and Publisher,
The San Francisco Chronicle

Dear Sir:

The histrionic tone of your recent editorial applauding the arrest of the IRA leader Sean MacStiofain is a remarkable exercise in historical and political naiveté. To imagine that the elimination of this man and his organization, a mere symptom of the malaise in Northern Ireland, will somehow return that land to a “civilized condition of life”, shows a complete misunderstanding of the situation. It is tantamount to hoping that the execution of Nat Turner in pre-Civil War Virginia might eradicate the problem of slavery in the South.

Just as most of our newspapers and periodicals, you suppose that a few reports from Belfast coupled with a cursory perusal of a few books on Irish history actually provide enough data to understand this bedeviled isle, which confounds even those intimately acquainted with its history and people. Your labeling of the IRA as a “cowardly band of terrorists” echoes very closely the denunciations of the IRA in 1921 by Lloyd George, Churchill, and much of the British and American press, yet these “gunmen” led by the now canonized Michael Collins and politically by Eamon De Valera, were soon recognized as the government of the Ireland and feted in Whitehall. Their active members numbered only a few thousand (as they do now in the North), but they had the support of the people. Furthermore, the venerated “Easter Revolt” of the 1916 was initiated by a visionary band of idealists and socialist revolutionaries totally out of touch with the mainstream of Irish thought, anathema to both its politicians and ordinary people; the subsequent Government reactions, touching the heights of British stupidity and duplicity, soon made martyrs of the poets, and a revolution of a mere skirmish.

In this short space it is impossible to analyze the many currents of Irish history and your numerous misconceptions of it, but to fathom the origins of the “bastard state” in Northern Ireland, Lord Longford’s objective book, Peace by Ordeal, is an invaluable discourse. I might further point out that in 1962, the Official IRA renounced the use of force and opted for peaceful means to remedy their grievances; they and virtually everyone else realized that the Republican Army was an anachronism in a country striving for entry into the Common Market. Perhaps you can imagine the fantastic degree of intolerance, bigotry and oppression that was necessary to resurrect the Provisional IRA from the ages of Irish history and generate the popular support any guerilla force requires. It is possible to overlook your historical inaccuracies, but I find your sanctimonious denunciations of one side in that bloody island, both shortsighted and morally reprehensible.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas McEnery

TM : jm

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