Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Joe McCann and the war in Ireland - a letter to Nuala

In the middle or at the root of the problem
Belfast 1977

Nuala, a chara:

Your father was killed when I was a teenager, trying to make up my mind about how, as a Quaker in the US, to handle the Vietnam war draft.

We are an Anglo Irish family in the States, and there have been family members on both sides of the issues in Ireland, as far back as Roger Casement, who is an Otway on his mother's side.

I joined the official Republican clubs, and was involved with them until the killing of Seamus Costello, at which point I remained a non-aligned Republican - in support of civil rights, but unlike some, not judgemental of the armed struggle.

My concern, as a Quaker, was twofold, one of truth and the other of the inescapable chain of responses to violence. I will return to this, as it is a complex issue, taking a little personal history to link it to the statement about judgemenalism...

Even growing up in a pacifist community of faith, many of us had to face the often expressed opinion that we were objectors to war out of cowardice. So, at some point, I decided to go to war with a camera, to witness what war was, and help create an understanding among those who support war without knowing it closely and personally. Your father was one of a few figures which made the struggle in Ireland, for me, the war I would observe.

There were other figures as well, Bernadette McAlisky, Eamonn McCann, Seamus Costello, who inspired me to believe that even in the armed struggle of war, there were some seeking truths. I came to see, however, that even deep thinkers, like your father, might be being used cynically by governments which so obscured the truth of the conflict, what good and moral people were simple pawns, symbols, and sacrifices to events beyond understanding at the time.

I've come to believe, that there was a complex of struggles on going in occupied Ireland at the time. To those on the front lines, struggling against often unchecked or government sponsored violence, the struggle seemed to be the simple economic struggle of colonialism. But for the British government, it was a matter of keeping a community divided by violence through British Millitary sponsored sectarian killings, and the shoot to kill policy.

Over the years, I began to believe that Britain and the US created the war in Ireland as a tool in the control of Ireland as a buffer in NATO's plans to contain the Warsaw Pact. Seeing Ireland as a case of Low Iintensity Conflict, explains the decades of infiltration of the armed politic on both sides of the struggle. As Spain, and France pulled out of NATO, NATO sought a staging platform for a war in Europe, as Ireland became during the Gulf Wars.

I am the first to say, even in hindsight, that it is impossible to say the continuation of a non-violent, resistance struggle would have been successful or even possible. I believe that Britain as the agent of NATO, would have murdered people like your father to insure that Low Intensity Conflict kept Ireland divided and occupied. The complex of issues spinning off of this, from Jack Lynch and Charlie Haughie re-arming Republicans... point to the war as being manipulated, and impossible to have understood for its real politic on the streets where people fought for survival.

But, true internationalist thinkers, like your father, kept a small number of us seeking, hopefully learning... There is much more I could write... but, here in New York, I will leave it to those who risked much more to take stock of what happened in Ireland during your father's life. It seems the years pass by with such speed... a life time since your father was killed. Unfortunately it is no longer seen as shocking to murder a wounded combatant, as was done to your father.

We live in times, today, where wars are used to obscure truths, to control masses of people and where many good people on all sides are sacrificed to plans which are never disclosed to those behind the guns. Understanding the life and times of your father is vital at this point. He was a brave, and a good man, who gave his life for justice, and was likely a tool used by cynical and evil governments. His loss cost Ireland and the world a voice which should have grown with age like so many in the armed Republican movement.
All the very best
Is mise, le meas


At 4:40 AM, Blogger Nuala said...

Hi Lorcan,
thankyou so much for your letter. It is heartwarming to think that my Dad had such an impact on people so far away from Ireland. I have sent you letter on to my family and im sure they will find it equally as interesting.
We have put together a webwsite in Joe's memory. You might like to visit and sign the guest book? Once again, many thanks for the time you have taken to share your thoughts and memories. Maybe one day i will make it to New York and we will meet. Or if you're ever in Ireland drop us a line.
All the best, God Bless,Nuala

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Otway,
Having admired your images of the fireboat at Greenpoint '06 blaze and fireboat Kane underway, I'd like to talk with you about using these in my book about fireboats. Thank you.
Wayne Mutza


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