Sligo Today Editorial

By Eugene McGloin

DEATH MOVED like a missionary, converting all it came among.

The words are unforgettable, the time and place immovable, a specific Sunday afternoon in Ireland.

Sunday January 30th 1972, when RTE's regular afternoon film then was an oldish version of a perennial tale.

The film was about Gandhi, ''the half naked fakir'' as one dry British political wit once labelled him.

Ignored Script

The late Johnny Chadda had memorably entranced us students for an afternoon in Summerhill College with tales of how Gandhi wrought radical change.

Radical change, but only through peaceful means. Only thing is the British rulers always ignored that aspect of the script.

Britannia waived the rules, whatever and whenever.....and wherever. Caste, creed, class meant nothing to its imperial agenda. 

Just about the same time as Sligo GAA's 1972 annual county delegate convention kicked off in the Courthouse, a civil rights march commenced in Derry.

The late Joe McMorrow would memorably intervene to adjourn that delegate convention in Sligo which he chaired.

Word was rumbling through -- in the era before fax, mobile, hourly news, Skype -- word rumbled through to Sligo of a slaughter in Derry.

Hours LATER British Army officers spoke about (only) 'four' dead....and said they had been fired on first.

Slapped Face

The (official) bull had begun but the Irish view was more clearcut: ''This was our Sharpesville and we will never forget it.''

Those powerful words were wee Bernie Devlin; within days, she went into the House of Commons and slapped the Minister, Maudling. 

Before she got to hit him, Ireland itself got to speak, every town in Ireland turned out for marches on the Monday. It spread across the world.

Within 72 hours, we burned their embassy in Dublin to the ground, our country's catharsis and national safety valve, a monstrous anger.

Those who witnessed first-hand quickly spoke out; the (collective) priests in Derry told a press conference what they saw. 

Image - Parachute Regiment running amok, January 30th 1972 Derry: 'Death moved like a missionary, converting all it came among.'

Those words were written about that one day by Derryman Professor Seamus Deane in his work ''Gradual Wars.''

It was no accident, that perverting by soldiers of world-work done by priests.

A witness forever to the world for that day in Derry was Fr Edward Daly, who will be buried today, Thursday.

He might have died that 1972 day, such was his bravery with a mere bloodstained hankie in the face of a Cowards Class carrying high-power assassins arms.

Murdered Priest

Certainly, yes, he might have died: Month earlier the same Parachute Regiment had murdered a priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, in the streets.

That Cowards Class NEVER had any integrity, any honesty, any character, any courage, any ethos or any ethic to tell the Truth, any part of it. Not even now.

When Widgery came and (quickly) went with his travesty as a 'Lord Chief Justice' the local MP Eddie McAteer said ''we were lucky he didn't find they all committed suicide.''

Widgery enraged Dr Daly, whose bravery remains the iconic image amid the British State's murder machine and mayhem that engulfed an Irish city that afternoon 44 years ago.

Stupid Question

But our lasting gratitude should be Dr Daly's public persistence, over decades, for The Truth to be told of what he witnessed first hand. 

Dr Daly never did fools for anybody as he spoke truth to power and to paramilitaries and to the Press, if needed.

During the 1981 hunger strikes I got what the Collins Dictionary would call an old fashioned earwigging from him.

That came what he regarded as a stupid question from our original The Sunday Tribune.....which it was, stupid.

Only one month earlier I'd flown into Eglinton in Derry as dusk fell, as the landing lights picked out the rim of the River Foyle. 

That serenity, beauty even, contrasted so sharply with the feeling after seeking and seeing -- the 'must see' -- memorial to That Day.

Nightfall could not mask the harshnesses that for Derry, its day (literally) had yet to arrive.

Derry was/is always part of my DNA; my dad worked sixteen successive Christmas Days between Sligo and Derry. It was his daily life for decades.

In the 60s and 70s I was a Finn Harps football fanatic, Hugh Crawford drove us every fortnight to Ballybofey to see the best domestic team ever to play in Irish football.

Domestic? Well, Derry had been driven out of senior football by sectarianism in its own corner of Ireland, so.....

So, Derry players and fans decamped every fortnight by the busload to Ballybofey; 25 buses came one Sunday.

The travelling singer took 45 minutes and more to work through the big crowd as he (perfectly) sang ''My Own Lovely Derry on The Banks of the Foyle'' we looked out beside us at the River Finn, in Donegal!

Over the decades the football scrapbooks all disappeared into the dustbin, except one titled: 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday.'

Image - Smokers Own shop window Sligo, May 1972, festooned with copies of one new book which showed a stark black coffin and the number 13 inscribed.

''Butchers Dozen'' was a book with less than one dozen pages, a wry, bitter, ironic response by poet Thomas Kinsella to the bull of UK Lord Chief Justice Widgery.

Afternoon Burial

Without checking text or Internet that poem opens something like:-

''I went with anger at my heel
Through Bogside of the bitter zeal
On a day 
Of cold, drizzle and decay
When I came where thirteen died
It shrivelled up my heart, I sighed....''

The priest waving the blood stained hankie has ensured so, so many of us know of the poem and that we now know the true story of that specific Irish afternoon.

Fittingly, Dr Edward Daly will be buried in the late afternoon of a Derry day, to rest in deserved peace in a city he helped to 'deliver.'

Dr Daly personally distilled Derry to deliver (much) better days, through That Day on the streets, in his books, in his public oratory, his superb work in specialist hospice.

Posted on 11/08/16 : 06:19:51