John Hume: IRA were ‘medieval savages weeping crocodile tears’ as they bombed tens of thousands out of work

John Hume believed one of the republicanism’s tactics was to deprive workers of jobs through the IRA’s “medieval” campaign – and then to pose as “champions of the oppressed” by complaining about unemployment.

Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 11:31 am
The 1988 bombing of the building site in Belfast city centre where CastleCourt shopping centre was being constructed

He made the comments in an address to his party faithful at a conference in November 1986 in Newcastle – the contents of which have just been uploaded in full to the University of Ulster’s Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN).

The speech was among a huge trove of files from 1986-1988 belonging to the Irish government, which have now been made publicly available.

Although it is likely that elements of his speech were reported in the press at the time, the hard copy of the whole, unabridged address shows how much he set his face against the republican movement.

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He also did not spare unionist politicians from criticism, telling party members: “If our political opponents wish to remain in their mental ghettoes, if they wish to march manfully towards 1690 while others – in the name of Ireland – conduct themselves with a savagery that is medieval, then that is their affair.

“We make no apology for taking steps to broaden the political horizons of our society or our members.”

The long speech ranged across everything from Sellafield and Chernobyl to green energy, but a sizable chunk was devoted to republicans.

Whilst blaming the “legacy of previous unionist rule” for unemployment in the Province, he went on to add: “The Provo bombing campaign cost the North 39,000 jobs between 1970 and 1980 alone.

“Those who set out to wreck the already feeble economic fabric of places like west Belfast, Derry, Newry, Strabane in particular now weep crocodile tears about unemployment.

“They see no contradiction in the fact that in their Ireland the young will be working in London or as illegal immigrants in New York, ‘driven out by their liberators’.

“Now we have the spectacle of a Sinn Fein councillor in Armagh talking about the need for the town to be opened up to allow easier shopping. And he does not even blush ...

“And his colleague down the road in Newry tells us that his party are ‘all for shoppers having as wide a choice as possible’. So he supports a proposal for development on the outskirts of the town that his military wing – to which he gives unequivocal support – tried to blow to bits.

“Workers or unemployed of course are not permitted to have as wide a choice as possible.

“They risk being classified as legitimate targets ...

“What a sorry vision for Ireland is the Provo vision, if it is threatened by cleaning women and clerks, contractors or bricklayers.

“Death or dole is the widest choice offered by these champions of the oppressed.”

He described republicans’ objectives as being “not Irish unity, not freedom – but power”.

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