Ireland-Palestine One Struggle
“I believe I am but another of those wretched Irishmen (Palestinians) born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom” Bobby Sands~ IRA Irish Hungerstriker
Perhaps some people wonder why the name of this blog is “Irish4Palestine” after reading this entry today, some of you will understand.
You see, people who lived through the struggle for freedom in the North of Ireland, know only too well about what we are seeing day after day take place against the Palestinians. Today I read a story about a small Palestinian child who dared to throw stones at Israeli tanks; he was shot for his defiance. Stones against tanks, some things never change. Palestinian teen in critical condition after being shot in head by Israeli forces
Soon I found myself remembering so many names, names of those here in Ireland, who committed those same defiant acts, and just as in Palestine, they were gunned down for throwing stones, or mostly and very simply, just being Irish and and wanting freedom and justice.
Although there have been thousands of names here, a few tend to stand out to me. I will tell the stories of two children, and please notice how identical they are to what is taking place in Palestine. Firstly, I remember Carol Ann Kelly, a 12 year old girl who was returning from a shop after buying milk for a neighbour. She was shot, and later died, from a plastic bullet, as her mother watched from inside the home in horror.
As she was walking back from the shop with friends, two British Army armoured vehicles entered the estate. ‘We could hear them (the soldiers) shouting about the five soldiers who had been killed that day. They shouted 'We will get one of you for our five mates today'. Then there was a shot. I saw her lying on the ground with blood coming from her head...’ and, ‘...her leg was curled up underneath her' She just literally fell on her back and the bag with the carton of milk was lying on the ground.’ Carol Ann’s mother witnessed the shooting from the upstairs window of their home. ...I looked round to see where Carol Ann was and she was just falling back. She went straight down. I stood for a moment or two. I just couldn’t take it in. My son Mark came running down the street and I heard him shouting ‘Oh they’ve shot our Carol Ann, they’ve shot our Carol Ann’.And I remember a little boy, Stephen McConomy 11 years of age, much like the young Palestinian child shot this past Saturday with a plastic bullet.
The ambulance took some time to arrive at the scene due to the actions of other British soldiers mounting a checkpoint at the entrance to the estate, who told the ambulance driver that no one had been hurt, forcing the driver to turn around before he was redirected to the scene by radio. Carol Ann was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where she died without regaining consciousness two days later
No British soldiers were ever charged in connection with the killing of Carol Ann Kelly.
‘I’ll be in at half eight,’ were Stephen’s last words to his mother when he left home on the evening of 16 April 1982. Shortly before 8pm Stephen and his friend were standing near the flats watching the antics of a small group of children throwing stones at a British army armoured vehicle, which was parked only yards from where the two boys stood. Civilian witnesses said the area was relatively quiet with only about five or six children between the ages of ten and twelve playing with an Irish flag. The children were trying to place the Irish flag over the front of the British armoured vehicle parked in Fahan Street.These are only two of a great many, murdered by state sanctioned terrorism. State sanctioned racism and bigotry. The “idea” that some people are human and others are not. Just like the IDF were so proud to wear t-shirts with images of Palestinian pregnant women, with the words “One Shot-Two Kills” written on them, or the shirt with the child, that said “Potential Terrorist” These views are well known to us Irish who also had to fight for our civil rights, equality and freedom. The checkpoint stories, the internment without trail or charges,our people wasting away in British jails. And just like Hamas, our Democratically elected Sinn Fein representatives were not allowed into government. Then there was the murder of our civil rights lawyers, our towns closed down, and all Irish removed or arrested, so that British Loyalists could march through our cities, celebrating our second class citizenship in our own country. Spitting on us as they passed, singing sectarian songs. All Irish removed from the good land, and forced to live in cramped small areas, whilst the British Planters grew crops on our stolen land. Even today there are people who’s families once owned vast acres of farmland, who now drive by and see others living there.
The soldiers in the armoured vehicle began revving the engine as if they were going to charge the children. One of the boys had a stick and was beating the armoured vehicle with it, while other children were trying to pull off riot-shields attached to the side of the vehicle. On the driver’s side of the vehicle a small hatch opened and the muzzle of a plastic bullet gun was pushed through the opening. When the children around the vehicle saw the gun muzzle they ran away towards Rossville Flats. Stephen was standing near the front of the vehicle at the time, his two hands in his pockets, and seeing the gun he turned to walk away. As he did the soldier sitting in the driver’s seat fired the plastic bullet gun through the opening. The impact of the plastic bullet, fired from less than six yards, lifted Stephen onto a grassy bank where he lay unconscious. Seeing the child’s plight two young men rushed to his aid, but before they could reach him they were threatened by the soldiers inside the vehicle that they would be shot if they went near him.
An inquest into the killing of Stephen McConomy was held in June 1983.No British soldiers were ever charged in connection with the killing of Stephen McConomy.
So much is the same between Ireland and Palestine, when I see Palestine, I see Ireland. When I see a Palestinian, I see an Irishman. When I see villages in Gaza, I see West Belfast or Creggan in Derry. When I see the face of a Palestinian child, I recognize what I see in their eyes. They are saying to the world “You will never break me, I exist, I am here, I am proud and I am Palestine!”
It was around the 10th anniversary of the Irish Hungerstrike where 10 IRA men died fighting for freedom. When a family friend had been doing some work in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. She only spoke English but had been attempting to learn a little Arabic. One day as she was watching a group of young girls playing and she couldn’t help but notice that they were singing some song, over and over again as they skipped. She moved closer to see if she could figure out what they were saying. At first it was difficult, but soon she began to realize what they were saying and it came as a great surprise. These little girls, who had not even been born yet, or were only babies during the Irish Hungerstrike, were ALL repeating the names of EACH Irish hungerstriker, over and over again. They were saying: “ Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Huson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McIlwee, Michal Devine “
So, all the way across the world, in another oppressed country like Palestine, people can be inextricably linked through common struggles. This is why the Irish hungerstrikers meant so much to Palestinian people and Lebanese people. It is really quite simple, Bobby Sands, the Irish Hungerstriker said this before he died, read it and think “Palestine” instead of “Ireland.”
I believe and stand by the God-given right of the Irish (Palestinian) nation to sovereign independence, and the right of any Irishman (Palestinian)to assert this right in armed revolution. That is why I am incarcerated, naked and tortured.The “Risen” people, THAT is what we are, and THAT is what they are. They rise up against tanks with stones and refuse to be oppressed and beaten, just like we did in the Battle of the Bogside many years ago. So, Ireland and Palestine are inextricably linked, through the struggle for freedom and an end to oppression. And that is why those little girls knew EVERY one of those names.
Foremost in my tortured mind is the thought that there can never be peace in (Palestine) Ireland until the foreign, oppressive (Israeli) British presence is removed, leaving all the (Palestinian)Irish people as a unit to control their own affairs and determine their own destinies as a sovereign people, free in mind and body, separate and distinct physically, culturally and economically.
I believe I am but another of those wretched (Palestinians)Irishmen born of a risen generation with a deeply rooted and unquenchable desire for freedom. I am dying not just to attempt to end the barbarity of H-Block, or to gain the rightful recognition of a political prisoner, but primarily because what is lost in here is lost for the (Palestine) Republic and those wretched oppressed whom I am deeply proud to know as the 'risen people'.
For just like in Palestine, so many of our memories and our monuments and our special days, are focused on our dead martyrs or our innocent dead. Like the boy shot on Saturday in the dusty desert of Palestine, like little Carol Ann Kelly and Stephen McConomy also shot by Plastic bullets in a lush green far away land called Ireland. So many deaths, so many funerals, too many to count for both of our countries.
Finally, in the words of Bobby Sands with the word “Ireland” removed and “Palestine” inserted:
“If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the “Palestinian” people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of “Palestine” will have the desire for freedom to show.As for me? Well, I used to cry for Ireland, now I cry for Palestine.
It is then we'll see the rising of the moon.
And this, my friends, is why this blog is called “Irish4Palestine”