Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘IRA’

The other night I was watching U2‘s “Rattle and Hum” DVD. It is one of my favourite music DVDs, and one of my regrets is that I didn’t see U2 in concert during this time. I did see them at Live Aid in London in 1985 (when I thought they were one of the best acts), and I also saw them in 1997 during the “Popmart tour“, but I do regret not seeing them during the 1987 Joshua Tree tour from which Rattle and Hum is taken.

For me, one of the hightlights of this DVD is their performance of their 1983 hit “Sunday Bloody Sunday“. This is because they show the version U2 did on the very same day as the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. On the 8th of November 1987, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombed a remembrance day parade in the small town of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, killing eleven people and injuring 63 people. The bombing is seen as a turning point in the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, such was the outrage against the attack. Bono, U2’s lead singer, talks on this day, when they were playing in Denver, Colorado, about the atrocity of the bombing as he introduces the song. The subsequent performance is charged with the tension, anger and sadness that Bono and the rest of the band clearly felt.

To give a little background to the title “Sunday Bloody Sunday“. There are, in fact, two “Bloody Sundays” in Irish history. The first Bloody Sunday happened on the 21st of November 1920, when 31 people were killed. Irish separatists killed 14 British troops in Dublin. In revenge, later the same day, the British Army (the Black and Tans) went into Croke Park stadium where a game of Gaelic Football was being played, and opened fire on the crowd, killing 14 members of the crowd. Later that evening, 3 IRA suspects were beaten and killed by their British captors. This was the first “Bloody Sunday”.

Bloody Sunday (1920), when 31 people (14 British and 17 Irish) were killed in the same day in Dublin.

The second Bloody Sunday happened in 1972. The British Army opened fire on unarmed protestors in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 26 of them. I vividly remember seeing the footage of this on the evening news back in 1972.

A British soldier attacking a protestor during the 2nd Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972. 26 unarmed protestors were shot by British soldiers.

U2’s song is about the 2nd Bloody Sunday, the one in 1972. Or, to be more correct, it is about the horrors of a person witnessing “the troubles” in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s. It is seen as one of U2’s most political songs, and yet as Bono makes clear through an impassioned break during the performance shown below, it is an anti-war and anti-violence song. Mid-song, Bono says the following to the audience:

And let me tell you somethin’. I’ve had enough of Irish Americans who haven’t been back to their country in twenty or thirty years come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home…and the glory of the revolution…and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution! They don’t talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What’s the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where’s the glory in that? Where’s the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day. Where’s the glory in that? To leave them dying or crippled for life or dead under the rubble of the revolution, that the majority of the people in my country don’t want.

To my mind, this performance is one of the seminal moments in rock music. It shows how powerful “pop music” can be, how it can be used for social commentary just as much as it can be used to sing about a boy and a girl falling in love. As an iconic moment, it is up there with the moment when a member of the audience in Bob Dylan‘s “Royal Albert Hall concert” in 1966 shouts “Judas” for Dylan daring to play a rock set, rather than his acoustic folk material. Music can be one of the most powerful tools for social change and social commentary that we have.

Which is your favourite U2 song?

Read Full Post »

The headline on Friday’s evening news (22nd June 2012) was that Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness would be meeting next week and, possibly, shaking hands.

For those of you who don’t know, Martin McGuinness was a leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (better known as the IRA), an organisation who waged a campaign against the British Government for many decades, in an attempt to persuade (force?) Britain to withdraw from Northern Ireland.

Martin McGuinness is now deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, but it is very significant that the Head of State of Great Britain, the country that Irish Republicans consider to be an occupying force in Northern Ireland, should be meeting a former leader of the IRA, a person whom many consider to be a former terrorist.

Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

In addition, the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s (the Queen’s husband) uncle in a bomb attack in 1979. So this meeting is significant at both a State and personal level. In 1998 the IRA agreed to put down its arms and sign up to the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Since then, former members of the IRA have committed to using the democratic political process to achieve their aims, rather than the armed methods of the past.

By coincidence, about a week ago I came across a 1982 record amongst my over 300 albums called “Nos du nos da” by Meic Stevens. On this record is a song “Bobby Sands”, about the IRA prisoner who, in 1981, starved himself to death in protest at the way he felt “political prisoners” were being treated by the British Government. It was a pretty controversial song when it was released…..

The lyrics of the song are:

Mae ‘na filoedd yn dy gefnogi chdi
Tithe yn y carchar.
Clyw sgrech Llywodraeth, ysbeiliwr ffôl.
Thyg, gwatwar.

Ond beth bynnag maen nhw’n dweud yn dy erbyn di.
Dioddefaint ac angau dewistaist ti.
I gael heddwch yn Iwerddon a chael fod yn rhydd.
Bobby Sands.

Darllenais am dy dristwch yn y “Western Mail”
Mewn erthygl golygyddol.
Bu farw Sands yn y Long Kesh jail.
Derbyniwch y ffaith fel rhybudd.
Yn ei farn nes ti farw dros ffyrnigrwydd gwyllt.
Terfysg, dychryn, y bom a’r dryll.
Lladrata a myrdro oedd dy ddull.
Bobby Sands.

Nid merthyr yw Sands medde llais y Sais,
Ond gwystl mewn dwylo gwydlon.
Esgus gwarthus i gael myrdro mwy.
Mae Sands yn ddigon fodlon
I farw dros y terfysg hwn.
Lladrata, myrdro, y bom a’r gwn.
Ond mi eith ei enw i lawr mi wn
Gyda Phadrig, Pearce a Connelly.

Ond beth bynnag maen nhw’n dweud yn dy erbyn di.
Dioddefaint ac angau dewistaist ti.
I gael heddwch yn Iwerddon a chael fod yn rhydd.
Bobby Sands.

Mae ‘na filoedd yn dy gefnogi chdi
Tithe yn y carchar.
Clyw sgrech Llywodraeth, ysbeiliwr ffôl.
Thyg, gwatwar.

Ond beth bynnag maen nhw’n dweud yn dy erbyn di.
Dioddefaint ac angau dewistaist ti.
I gael heddwch yn Iwerddon a chael fod yn rhydd.
Bobby Sands.
Ie, Bobby Sands.
Bobby Sands.
Ie, Bobby Sands.

Which translates (roughly) as

There are thousands who support you.
And you are in prison.
Hear the screech of Government, stupid spoiler.
Thug, mocker.

But whatever they say against you,
Suffering and death is what you chose.
To have peace in Ireland, and to be free.
Bobby Sands.

I read about your sadness in the “Western Mail”,
In an editorial article.
Sands died in the Long Kesh jail.
Take the fact as a warning.
In their opinion you died for crazy anger.
Violence, scaring, the bomb and the gun.
Stealing and murdering were your means.
Bobby Sands.

Sands is not a martyr, says the voice of the English
But a hostage in bloody hands.
An awful excuse to murder more.
Sands is content enough
To die for this violence,
Stealing, murdering, the bomb and the gun.
But his name will go down I know
With Patrick, Pearce and Connelly.

But whatever they say against you,
Suffering and death is what you chose.
To have peace in Ireland, and to be free.
Bobby Sands.

There are thousands who support you.
And you are in prison.
Hear the screech of Government, stupid spoiler.
Thug, mocker.

But whatever they say against you,
Suffering and death is what you chose.
To have peace in Ireland, and to be free.
Bobby Sands.
Yeah, Bobby Sands.
Bobby Sands.
Yeah, Bobby Sands.

Whether Martin McGuinness was a murderer I will leave for you to decide, as it is a matter of opinion. Whether people like Bobby Sands and other members of the IRA were terrorists or freedom fighters rather depends on your point of view. What is less contentious is that, since the Good Friday Peace Accord, life for most people in Northern Ireland is more peaceful than it has been for decades, and that can only be a good thing.

Read Full Post »