In the mid 1950’s, for a time, there was a large poster at Tara Street Station, Dublin, at the bottom of the steps leading from the suburban train from Bray and Dun Lagohaire, the precursor of the Dart, that said ‘Wars Will Cease When Men Refuse To Fight.’ I have no idea who put it there, possibly that admirable Christian Society, The Quakers who abhor violence in any shape or form. I think it is also true to say that ‘Wars As We Know Them Will Cease When Men Refuse To Manufacture Arms.’ Without arms you might, of course, have international mass boxing matches, but even that would be a great improvement.
I find it difficult to understand how anybody who works for a firm that makes cigarettes, that kill millions of people worldwide every year, can live and bring up their families on the profits. I find it even more difficult to understand how people can work for firms that manufacture arms.
I can think of no positive use for a gun. Some farmers will tell you they must keep a gun to shoot foxes and rats. Talking of rats I read recently that there are more of them in the country than there are people. God probably made zebras and some of the species of gazelle and similar animals as food for lions, but I wonder why he made rats. Their only predator is man, but we don’t eat them, but that’s another day’s work. Back to guns.
If I ever met Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness I would want to ask them a simple question. ‘In the days before you became advocates of democratic politics did you ever shoot a man, or for that matter, a woman? Some of your friends took Mrs McConville, a housewife, away from her family and shot her in the back of the head for nothing more than giving a British soldier a cup of tea.’ Adams and McGuinness and their cohorts these days are lauded for their achievements in bringing the IRA from violence to politics, without a word about the fact that in the late 1960’s they and their likes led them from peaceful protest to murder. Is it not likely that if they had supported the Civil Rights Movement, instead of mounting a violent campaign of murder and violence that lasted for thirty years, we would have had peaceful power sharing in Northern Ireland long ago. We would have avoided the slaughter, the appalling pain and suffering of thousands of families and the community polarisation that is making the achievement of a complete solution to-day so difficult. Adams and McGuinness, no doubt, would start their defence by saying: ‘It’s not as simple as that.’ I believe it is.
Of course I don’t believe that, had the IRA not started shooting there would not have been a violent reaction to peaceful protest from some sections of the Unionist Community. Of course there would have been difficult times, and Loyalists would need to have responded non violently too, and I have no doubt that the majority of the Unionist Community would have supported peaceful methods of managing change, if the small minority of violent people on both sides had not begun to use their guns to pursue a campaign of violence and murder. Of course Adams and McGuinness deserve credit for leading gunmen from violence to democracy, but its not easy to forget that they and others led them in the first place into appaling violence at a terrible and unnecessary cost.