06 April 2005

Daily Ireland

TAKE FIVE - Stadium Stormont

By Tommy McKearney

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If you travel westwards along the M1 from Belfast, you’ll be able to see a graphic example of one of Britain’s answers to its Irish problem. It’s called Long Kesh. Some call it the Maze and others talk about the Blocks but all agree that it was a large, high-security, British Army-guarded prison housing hundreds of political prisoners.
Unlike the Crumlin Road or Armagh jails, Long Kesh was built specifically to hold prisoners of the Northern Irish conflict. For reasons of British state policy it was deemed expedient also to house non-political prisoners there but, have no doubts, Long Kesh was not erected because of some inexplicable outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland. It was designed because, for half a century, London endorsed an undemocratic regime in Belfast and when challenged by a peaceful civil rights movement, refused to order meaningful radical improvements. The inevitable outcome was that a long-suffering and incredibly patient community resorted to arms.
It is recognised as failure on the part of any government, when a sizeable section of the population feels driven to insurrection. Witnessing major civil upheaval, good administrations examine their stewardship; arrogant bullies tend to blame and then punish the people. Like incompetent doctors burying their mistakes, Britain shot or locked up evidence of its inability to create democracy within Northern Ireland; constitutionally an integral part of the United Kingdom.
Many examples exist of London’s mismanagement of Northern Irish affairs. Graveyards and ‘peace-walls’ and segregated education to mention just a few, though for starkness little compares with the concrete monstrosity situated beside Ireland’s first-ever dual-carriageway. Stop and look at it and ask why the British government needed that Bastille in order to govern this small piece of territory.
Better go soon too, because the British government intends building a sports complex over the site. Sure, there will be a token Block left, but effectively the testimony to monumental, decades-long British governmental failure will be covered-up physically and metaphorically. It is disgraceful that the British government is attempting to hide evidence of its years of failure and scandalous that sporting organisations might aid and abet them do so.
The entire site should be retained, not for partisan purpose but as a marker to remind us where bad governance leads.
If Britain really wishes to build upon its failures here, why not place the new stadium on top of a demolished Stormont?

Tommy McKearney is a former member of the IRA and now works with ex-prisoners and as an organizer for the Independent Workers Union.

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