09 January 2006

Mala Poist: Echoes of the past

Irelandclick

On January 30, 1606, five Catholics were publicly hanged, drawn and quartered in London, after being found guilty of attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
This was followed by the execution of one of the main conspirators, Guy Fawkes, and another man, Thomas Bates, on the following day. Records show that the victims had their genitals removed and burned in front of them when they were still alive, and their decapitated heads were fed to animals in a public orgy of savagery.
The whole infamous episode in English history was the culmination of a relentless persecution of Catholics, which started when Queen Elizabeth I banned them from practising law, serving as military officers or voting in elections. After the murder of the conspirators, and anyone suspected of helping them, including Jesuit priests, the persecution of Catholics was intensified.
They were forbidden to hear Mass and forced to attend Anglican Church services. It was not until 1829 that Catholics were allowed to vote in elections. In Ireland there was no respite from persecution. The wholesale confiscation of grain and food to feed the industrial revolution in England caused the starving to death of over one million of our people and the forced emigration of nearly two million, most of whom died on the ships.
During their death throes the starving victims of genocide in Ireland were forced to pay a levy to the Anglican Church. This was all happening in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
In retrospect, historical revisionists could look at all of this in the context of a wider European history, which is dominated by religious persecutions, including the persecution of Protestants and Huguenots by Catholic regimes in France and Spain.
But there is a fundamental difference in that the Christian pogroms throughout the rest of Europe ended four centuries ago when people over there became civilised, a civilising influence which has still not touched the English aristocracy, their political leaders, their civil servants, or their rabble-rousing clergy in Ireland.
We only have to look at the discrimination against Catholics in employment, allocation of public funding, the discrimination policies in unionist councils such as Ballymena and Lisburn, and the role of unionist paramilitaries in excluding Catholics from housing in North Belfast. All of this has the approval and connivance of English ministers and civil servants from the top down. And this is not even to mention the haste with which they collapse democratic governmental structures at the whim of the unionists, their media, their secret police and their network of well-paid spooks and spies. Moreover, when we consider that English schoolchildren are even given a public holiday and encouraged to celebrate the shameful and barbaric events of 1606 by bonfires and fireworks, we can understand the seething hatred that inspired many of them to join the army and murder people in Ireland during the last thirty years.
And when we consider also the institutionalised hatred and exclusion of Catholics which characterises England’s unelected but official heads of state, it is not surprising at all that unionists who worship these wasters want to pipe bomb Catholic houses, stop Catholic toddlers from attending school, intimidate people at cemetery ceremonies and exclude the entire nationalist community from any political power in their own country.
But we could not consider any of this without being confronted with some other more fundamental questions. We would have to wonder why it is that Irish people still humiliate themselves when they bow at the feet of the English monarch in exchange for offensive titles. And this after so many Irishmen and women gave their lives to win our dignity as Irish citizens instead of subjects and commoners.
And why is this insult to our nation and the memory of our dead not punished by the Irish government by the removal of their Irish citizenship and the confiscation of their passports?
And we need to ask also why no Irish government will challenge the British administration through the European parliament over its continued exportation and sponsorship of anti-Catholic racism in Ireland. (There is no such thing as sectarianism. The collective hatred of people for any reason is called racism).
But there are even more pertinent questions here. When Fawkes, Gatesby and the rest were put to death in 1606, they were not executed for attempted murder but for treason, because they tried to destroy a government which was elected by the people – a crime which is still punishable by the death penalty.
Now why is nobody being sentenced to death for treason following the collapse of the Stormont Executive by a Special Branch spy ring?

JACK DUFFIN,
BELFAST

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