Confronting Violence in Contemporary Prose Writing from the North of Ireland
Whatever You Say, Say Something
During the build-up in 2011 to what was arguably the most exciting Presidential election campaign in decades in Ireland, not least because of entertaining shenanigans surrounding brown envelopes, one thing at least became perfectly clear thanks to the candidacy of Martin McGuinness: the extreme violence which marked the process leading to and continuing on from the birth of the Irish Free State is so unpalatable to both the political class and state media that few were prepared to acknowledge the hypocrisy and absurdity of attempts to disqualify McGuinness as a worthwhile contender on the basis of his past as a member of the IRA. This attitude was hypocritical on many different levels; not only did it reveal the double standards which mean that while it was deemed acceptable for McGuinness to be Deputy First Minister in the North and therefore to occupy a position of relative power, the idea that he might become President of Ireland was somehow objectionable, but it also highlighted only too obviously the collective amnesia which has allowed Irish people to forget that Eamon De Valera, and others who would become major political actors in the Free State, were also, once upon a time, involved in political violence. When Miriam O’Callaghan (RTÉ) felt justified in asking the other candidates what they thought of McGuinness’s candidacy and how he himself ‘square[ed] with [his] God the fact that [he was] involved in the murder of so many people’...
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