What do Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, Georges Jacques Danton & Lev Davidovich Bronstein (more recognisable of course as Robespierre, Danton and Trotsky) have in common? Apart from being revolutionaries of one kind or another they all have or have had trouble keeping control of the causes they espoused and fought for; in the case of Robespierre & Danton, these two former giant figures in the glorious French Revolution found that despite being great revolutionary leaders and famous orators, their former revolutionary comrades eventually got round to making a date for them with Madame Guillotine. In the Case of Trotsky; a fall out with Stalin led to a well documented fatal incident with an ice pick, In the case of Adams & McGuiness some comrades would like a similar fate to befall them, alas, it was ever thus.
Revolutions are notoriously difficult to control and ending them can be as difficult as starting them, think about Spain, Russia, while Ireland itself is a good example, 93 years after the Easter Rising the killing goes on and people live in strictly segregated areas, where wandering into the wrong place by mistake can get you shot.
Revolutions throw up heroic figures; opponents don’t agree of course about who is and is not a hero; both sides have their own and both write their own version of events, songs, poems and stories. Ireland has been at war of one kind or another for hundreds of years, mainly with Britain/England that’s why it was sadly no surprise to me when the latest killings took place. Unfortunately there are those involved who will always want to continue the fight because they will never be satisfied with compromise, some see them as heroes and some as fanatics.
When Michael Collins signed the partition agreement he was congratulated by someone at the meeting to whom he said “I have just signed my own death warrant” and he was correct as he was gunned down later by former comrades. If leaders in Northern Ireland of whatever stripe are genuinely surprised by events then I accuse them of naivety; my daughter has a very close friend from Belfast whom she visits; they spoke on the phone about these events and her pal said her mother had said despairingly “here we go again; I’m off to ASDA to buy a bin lid” black humour indeed but; an indication that she; and; I think many others knew that something like this could happen.
Like most others I hoped that the latest peace process would succeed and; to an extent it has; the overwhelming majority want it to hold as has been demonstrated by the public outcry, they have had a lengthy period of peace and they have had the chance to live relatively normal lives. Intractable enemies have been sitting round the table and learning to compromise, that is anathema to some, the immediate future will be volatile and edgy, we must all hope for the sake of sanity that the diehards will think again and fall in line with the huge majority that they claim to be fighting for.
Having spent a holiday last summer travelling around Ireland I am very sad indeed to think that the place I visited has been threatened yet again with public disorder and sectarian crime, last year it was lovely and the lack of tension was notable, clearly it is still a tribal society in the North but it was far more welcoming and good natured than before; the thought of it unravelling again is unbearable and must not be allowed to happen.