From the North Belfast News:
A brutal truth
Like all armies, the British army loves its codenames. Operation Banner is the innocuous moniker that it imposed on what it described as its operation to support the local police here. That’s code for the latest attempt to subdue the natives – the one that began in 1969 and which comes to an end on July 31, 2007.
We report this week on the reaction of a number of people affected by the conflict on the end of Operation Banner, a significant event, even if the fact that British troops will remain in situ here makes it a largely symbolic affair – kind of like the British army saying, as the IRA has already done, that its war is over.
Much has been said and written in recent days and weeks about whether Operation Banner has been a success or a failure. It’s all so much bluster and waffle. The fact of the matter is that once the British government decided to put heavily armed troops on the streets of Belfast, that was an admission of failure in itself. London had nearly fifty years to correct the grotesque excesses of the Stormont regime and decided that the best course of action was to do nothing – for that crime of omission is it was equally, if not more, culpable than the hardline unionist despots who ran the six counties as their own private Protestant fiefdom simply because they could.
History willl relate that the British troops were put on the streets of Belfast initially to protect beleaguered Catholics. History should also relate that the troops were there to protect beleaguered Catholics who were under threat from a ragtag paramilitary militia which was part of a rotten, sectarian regime which the British government encouraged and condoned for half a century.
Just as Tony Blair’s legacy will forever be the obscenity that is Iraq, so the British army’s legacy of this most recent phase of the conflict will be the murderous reality of its collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. All sides have indulged in the most appalling atrocities and crimes, but the brutal truth is that the arming and directing of loyalist killer gangs whose sole raison d’etre was to target Catholics was not something carried out by rogue agents, rather it was sanctioned at the highest level. Don’t ask us if that’s the case, ask John Stevens. Nowhere was the bloody British army/UDA/UVF pogrom against Catholics carried out with more ferocity than in North Belfast.
While they sound their trumpets and hand out the medals and pat themselves on the back as Operation Banner comes to an end, North Belfast Catholics will remember its many innocent victims.
And From the Balcony:
It was like throwing a snowball at a juggernaut today trying to bring some balance to the British salute to their boys and their Operation Banner.
Still, in and out of studios most of the day to state that the British military occupation of nationalist areas left almost every nationalist working class family traumatised at some stage or other over the period of the 35-year war. The ghosts of Majella O’Hare, Leo Norney, Kidso Reilly and many others were entitled to that much: that someone throw cant about ‘mistakes’ back in the face of the righteous British Army spokespersons (and their apologists) who were wheeled out today.
My favourite account of the day came from Liam Stone who recalled how he and his father looked out their Ballymurphy window at hundreds of British soldiers with Saracens and armoured vehicles making their way up the Whiterock Road in the first major riots of Easter 1970. Liam recalled how his father, who had served with the British Army and was a prisoner of war in Danzig, seethed as he saw the heavily-armed forces advance against a civilian population. “He fought Nazism so he knew what facism was and that’s what he called that display that day, fascism.” (I paraphrase, you can hear Liam, he’s almost the very last speaker on today’s Talkback.)
Apparently the BBC needs a little help with their technology, because when you download the Talkback highlights from the Whiterock Community Center, it is only a minute and a half long, with the last part of the news and about fifteen seconds of the introduction to the bit (and no interviews). Bastards! I really wanted to hear Liam Stone, in part because I interviewed him for my thesis, and he gave me the most amazing quote for my paper…he basically stated my thesis in his own words during the interview. It was beautiful. And maybe one day I will finish it and you can all read it…