I recently put two photographs on Facebook –one of Liam Lynch and one of my mother– and when somebody asked about them, my daughter Sion added a brief explanation.
Which inspired me to write a somewhat longer caption.
I run it here also, because it expresses a continuity from Liam Lynch’s time –he died in 1923– right up to March, 2010, in Ulster where miraculous things are happening, and there are solid indications that the centuries-old fight is finally being resolved and those old antagonists, the Loyalist/Unionist Reverend Ian Paisley and the old IRA man, Martin McGuinness, are speaking in friendly and cooperative tones. And in an interview with Charlie Rose last week, McGuinness quite emphatically described maintaining and building “the peace” as a matter of leadership.
That’s the sort of statement that might well echo around the world. “Miraculous” –I contend– is not too strong a word to describe what is taking place in Ulster.
Herewith my Facebook comment:
“The name of my book that Sion is referring to is “This Should Never Have Happened”– very soon to be published.
The photo is of my uncle, General Liam Lynch (1893-1923) who was Chief of Staff of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) in the Irish Civil War of 1922-23. The bullet that killed Liam –he was 29– was the last shot fired in that bitter war; as Chief-of-Staff it was ultimately his decision to end or continue the war. By early 1923 he had decided that he should end it and was about to make a truce.
But– not soon enough.
Though seen as a hero in the preceding Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921) –along with Michael Collins and others– it was because of his determination that he would live under “No Other Law” but that of a full 32-County Irish Republic completely independent of the British Empire, and his failure to make a truce, that in Irish history he, more than anyone, is blamed for the bitter war that had come to repel the vast majority of Irish people in 1923.
He and Michael Collins were comrades in arms in the war against the Brits, but were on opposite sides in the Civil War. (And both men were shot dead by the other’s side.) Collins also had “wanted a truce” –he had predicted his own death when he signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. His famous comment was “I have signed my own death warrant.”
My mother, Anne McCormick –12 years younger than her cousin Liam– was very close to him all his life (as a teenager he had worked for 4 years as an apprentice in her father’s hardware store in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork). It was her special connection with Liam that lies at the core of the book that I have been working on for the last two years, but it is a story that I have in some way been reflecting on all my life.
The title of the book is “This should never have happened” –which also happens to have been Liam Lynch’s dying words.
It is a dramatic, moving, and tragic story. And –in a most extraordinary way– it is also timely. Liam’s fight for a full 32-county Irish Republic has in the last month taken a sudden positive, indeed almost miraculous, turn. The Peace Agreement in the North of Ireland almost collapsed a short while ago, and some extremist terrorists calling themselves The Real IRA and claiming to be the true inheritors of the Liam Lynch mantle, have been violently active. But the main protagonists Martin McGuinness and Reverend Ian Paisley –two men with decades-long violent antipathy to each other– have reversed their antipathy and have become not just friends but ardent proponents of a lasting peace in which they seem to be agreeing to joining in cooperative self-governing rule. Ian Paisley has said to Martin McGuinness that he saw no reason why they should not be able “run this together.”
In a way this extraordinary development can be seen as a sort of vindication in principle of Liam Lynch’s aims almost 90 years ago, though I want it to be clear that I do not absolve him of his responsibilitity for not ending the war earlier.
His last words can equally be regarded as a rejection of the extremist “Real IRA” terrorists –the so-called “inheritors of the Liam Lynch mantle”.
After all, his dying message “This should never have happened” could not have a plainer message for these extremists. If my book were to help them to re-examine their motives and actions (in the way that Paisley & McGuinness have done theirs) I could not think of a more fitting tribute to Liam Lynch –and to my mother.”
[End of caption].
It has frankly amazed me how little attention our Media has given this milestone event in Ulster –it made so much of the terrible violence and the unrelenting sectarian strife that we have seen for decades upon end.
UNFAIR! And UNBALANCED!
And not just Fox.