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Rewriting the history books — Republican 'tour guide' fails to mention a few home truths

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

The Shinners may have ballsed up their Stormont strategy with Robbo's camp and crawled back into the Executive, but full marks to republicans for promoting their culture.

A brilliant stocking filler is Rab Kerr's entertaining publication, Republican Belfast: A Political Tourist's Guide.

This recommendation comes from me, a radical Right-wing Unionist who would not be caught dead in any republican plot.

Everyone in the pro-Union community should invest a tenner in Rab's compact, yet informative insight into republicanism.

I've learned more about rebel thinking from Rab's book than all the Shinner rantings over the past quarter century.

Rab's history is based on the documentation of Belfast's murals, plaques, museums, and memorial gardens.

Backed up by easy to follow maps even the most hardline of loyalist could read, there are strong mentions of Protestant culture, too.

My favourite is the link between Rosemary Street's famous Masonic Hall – built on the site of a Presbyterian church – and the Protestant-run United Irishmen.

If only the Catholic Defenders had shown the same political balls as the radical Irish Presbyterians in 1798 – but that's a row for another day.

Rab's writing is superb, the quality of the photos outstanding, and the journey through republicanism is stunning.

But speaking of blowing, there are a number of glaring errors in Rab's carefully woven masterpiece.

If Belfast is such a Mecca to republicanism, how come Rab doesn't mention the tens of millions of pounds lost during the Troubles through the Provos' bombing blitz?

Can't find a mention of Oxford Street bus depot – the scene of Bloody Friday's worst carnage where seven of the 11 people who died that day were blown apart.

On Friday 21 July 1972, republicans set off 26 blasts across Belfast. Amid the slaughter, 130 people were hurt. The bus station was packed when the IRA exploded its no warning bombs.

And what about the shopping centre on the Cavehill Road where another four people died that day and many of the injured suffered serious mutilations?

Queen's University library is also ignored. That's where 25 years ago two IRA gunmen shot dead Unionist rising star Edgar Graham.

Okay, there is a substantial section in the book on collusion – but again, no mention of the claim the Provos colluded with their arch loyalist rivals to kill Graham because of the UUP man's total opposition to death squads of any kind.

And why no mention of Finaghy, where the IRA – allegedly working hand in glove with certain British spooks – murdered Christian cleric and MP Robert Bradford?

And during Rab's wee walks around the west of the city, we don't seem to stop at the spot where two British corporals were dragged from their car and battered by a republican mob in March 1988.

There are plenty of photos of plaques to dead Provos, but I can't find the reference to the republican heroes who bombed Musgrave Park Hospital in November 1991, killing two and injuring 18.

And why is there no visit to the fish shop on Shankill Road where an IRA bomb went off prematurely, killing 10 and injuring another 58 in October 1993?

Maybe Rab's second edition could carry a memorial to the Disappeared, especially those whose bodies are still to be found?

And what about a mention of the IRA going to war against the IPLO in November 1992, killing one and injuring eight?

December 9, 2008

This article appeared in the December 8, 2008 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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