Irish Life

  • 30 November 1983
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IT WAS HARD TO IMAGINE that you were in the same place. But there, just a mile, or maybe less, away from these events in the Mansion House on the same day, Sunday 13 November 1983, sat the congregation in St Patrick's Cathedral, all joined together to commemorate all those who were torn asunder in the First World War.

All day, and all the preevious day, the Provos had sat in the Mansion House, with the Special Branch watching outside in case some new face, or some old face, appeared. There the editor of An Phoblacht said he would keep his mast head red if he wanted to. He liked red.

And he attacked the Sligo Branch for putting down a motion about lack of coverrage of what was happening in the South of Ireland. Sligo never sent him in any inforrmation and if he got nothing, why then he could print nothing.

Down in the round room they sat, the two groups. The contingent from Belfast; some were even skinheads and looked like nothing on earth beside the southerners some of whom looked as though they had recently wandered out of the Deserted Village: the dispossessed who looked as though the struggle had been long and had lacked excitement.

Across the city the beautiiful Protestant church was filling up. Even if some of the congregation were wearing old clothes they were wearing clothes which had cost money in their day. Here came to pray the establishment, those were happy and glad and comfortable as members of the establishment.

Peter Sutherland and Paddy Cooney and Sean Barrett sat in the same row as a couple who were unmistakeably English and would be recognised as such no matter where in the world they went. Opposite was the British ambassador and his wife. Beside them were representatives of the Irish army.

The lights were dim. The party carrying the flags moved up the church preceded by various clergymen and altar boys. Hymns were sung and a verse from "For the Fallen" was recited. It was all hushed and solemn, as though in the presence of the ghosts of the noble dead:

"They shall not grow old as we that are left grown
old Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We shall remember them." The words were repeated
by the congregation. "We shall remember them."

Although there was a small protest outside from republiicans, the only social outrage of any sort was caused by a woman and her husband who arrived late. The woman looked as though a gate had never been closed on her in her life. But the church was full, they were told, the church was full. No, they couldn't get in, that was the man's instructions, he was only doing what he was told. The woman insisted, they were members. Of course they would get in. He was to open the gate.