Bernard Fox letter on the road to armed struggle

The following letter appeared in the October 26 issue of the Belfast-based Irish News.  Bernard Fox spent decades in the Irish Republican Army, including a stint on the Army Council, the IRA’s seven-person central leadership.  He came to oppose the direction the Adams-McGuinness cabal took as they decided to become part of the political establishment across the island.

I commend The Irish News coverage of the emergence of the civil rights association and the events surrounding the Duke Street march 50 years ago. Leona O’Neill’s column (October 9) about her brave father’s involvement and decisions made then were made in response to what he experienced on the ground. However, at that time there were no easy decisions to make.

I was a 17-year-old in 1969 living in the St James’s area off the Falls Road. My interests were sport, the Beatles and girls. I was serving an apprenticeship in an engineering firm where I had many Protestant friends. In later years some of my friends were to become members of the RUC, UDR and Prison Service. The Duke Street march was a catalyst which sent me on a quick learning curve and the media was portraying the awakening of a people’s revolution throughout the world. As a 17-year-old this excited me and I wanted a part in this revolution, a part that would see me spend nearly 22 years in jail.

I attended marches, rallies and protests but they were almost all attacked by the RUC, B-Specials or unionist mobs. We were beaten, battered and burnt out of our homes and then shot off our streets.

I was on the Falls Road in August 1969 when it was attacked by the state forces. I was half way up Norfolk Street trying to protect homes when the shooting started and we had to retreat onto the Falls Road. I remember a few derogatory remarks were made against the IRA and lack of guns to protect our people. However, these conditions made for a resurgent IRA to come to the fore because in my experience on the ground everyone seemed to have a part they wanted to play. No matter their standing in the community they didn’t say no to defending the barricades. It was not an easy decision to make but it was the right decision.

As the events took over and we were educating ourselves ‘on the hoof’ it wasn’t long before history taught us that the British set up this sectarian state on the threat of all out war against the Irish people.

I am proud of my participation. I am also proud of the women and men who took the same path, especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Their part has never been acknowledged properly.

‘Terrorists’ and ‘terrorism’ are words that come too easily to commentators describing the IRA. I can tell you that the people I know and knew loved the community they came from. They received no rewards, no finance, no pension, no ‘freedom of any towns’ bestowed on them and no post traumatic stress clinics opened for us. Nor did we ask for them.

I feel this needs to be said on behalf of the many good people and their legacy needs to be remembered.

I hope our children and grandchildren do not have to go through what we had to. Every life lost was terrible and brought about devastation to each family affected. The loss was the same for everyone.

Co. Down

Posted on October 27, 2018, in British state repression (general), Democratic rights - general, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Imperialism (generally), Irish politics today, national, Partition, Political education and theory, Prisoners - past, Provos - then and now, Repression and resistance in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Republicanism 1960s, Revolutionary figures, six counties, Unionism, loyalism, sectarianism. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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