Here’s some Tan notion … Name garden after loyalist heroes
(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)
I’ve a Tan-astic aspiration inspired by and thanks to the Shinners sticking to their guns over the naming of a children’s park after former IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.
As an unrepentant Radical Right-wing Unionist, I admire the republicans who – unlike the Stoops – would not be brow-beaten by us Unionists into ditching the McCreesh park title even through it was a democratic vote.
I’m a huge fan of one of the most effective British units in Ireland, the ruthless Black and Tans and my aspiration is to have a Black and Tans Memorial Garden dedicated to those who served and died during the bloody War of Independence.
Unionists should take a leaf out of the Shinners’ books and start dedicating and renaming parks after loyalists heroes in the same way republicans have stuck firm to their principles concerning Raymond McCreesh’s memory.
To many Unionists, McCreesh was the spawn of satan because of his links to the 1976 Kingsmills massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were butchered by the Provos’ South Armagh Brigade.
But to the vast majority of republicans, McCreesh was a martyr and freedom fighter.
Unfortunately, many Unionists seem to bottle up their emotions and try not to make too much fuss about honouring dead heroes.
Republicans like to indulge in very public demonstrations of remembrance, such as the annual Tyrone Volunteers Day.
The Stoops have their knickers in a twist and are talking about giving SDLP councillors who didn’t attend the meeting to vote against naming the park a political spanking.
That Stoop sabre rattling has more to do with trying to win back the Newry and Armagh Commons seat with the help of tactical voting from Protestants.
As an unrepentant radical Right-wing Unionist, I fully support the democratic vote in Newry council to keep the park called after McCreesh.
In return, I hope the Shinners will not get hot under the collar for my campaign to have a memorial garden named after the famous Black and Tans, who played such a pivotal role in kick starting the peace process which resulted in the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty.
While the Brits hammered the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army into the ground during the Easter Rising, they found legendary IRA terrorists Dan Breen and Michael Collins a different challenge.
The Tans laid the foundation for the Treaty, and their role needs to be fully recognised. Breen and Collins realised that the British could not be fought conventionally as in 1916. A brutal terrorist campaign was the only strategy, and hence the IRA was born.
The sheer psychotic brutality of the Tans was captured in the cinema with the period award-winning masterpiece, The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
The War of Independence is also known to republicans as the Tan War. Just over 7,000 Tans served in the campaign, and almost one-third of them were killed.
Whether the view is taken that the British agreed to talk to Collins through embarrassment at Tan tactics, or Collins was beaten to the negotiating table because he knew he could never match the Tans’ brutality, the fact is – the Tans can never be airbrushed out of Irish history and their role in securing the Treaty.
For this achievement, the Tans deserve a memorial garden. And no doubt with the Somme and Rising centenaries next year, Unionists and republicans will be rushing around trying to rename parks, streets and anything they can possibly change to remember their respective heroes.
If Sinn Féin can win a democratic vote over McCreesh, then hardline loyalists may try and persuade unionist-controlled councils to rename parks commemorating Billy Wright, known as King Rat, who was responsible for planning the deaths of up to 40 Catholics.
Loyalists might also want parks named after Lennie Murphy, the leader – or Master Butcher – of the notorious Shankill Butchers gang, or Robin Jackson, dubbed the Jackal, believed to have masterminded the Monaghan and Dublin bombings in the Seventies.
After all, the British later used Tan tactics to defeat the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya in the 1950s.
What’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. Let McCreesh Park remain – and let’s get on with building the Black and Tans Memorial Garden!
March 3, 2015________________
This article appeared in the March 2, 2015 edition of the Irish Daily Star.