SAS could divide community
by OONAGH TIMSON
Once again all Ireland stands aghast at the latest horrific crime, Murders pile upon murders. Catholics are slaughtered one night and Protestants the next.
The vicious pattern would seem to be now a permanent feature of the locality. The only variables are the victims. Who is to be in the next batch marked out for annihilation? There is no safe place for the victims. Whether they stay at home or go to work is immaterial. If their face or name registers in the assassins' minds, then they are dead men.
The sending in of the SAS by Mr Wilson, and the saturation of the area by British troops at least give the appearance of something being done. But whether the SAS will be successful remains to he seen.
If they separate all the paeamilitaries, loyalist as well as republican, from the community at large, they will then have been successful: but if they divide even further, or deepen the division between, the two communities, they will make Mr Rees' job well nigh impossible.
According to an ITN bulletin, Mr Wilson specifically said that the SAS will be in uniform at all times, with sand-coloured berets and the SAS flash on their tunics. A BBC Northern Ireland news bulletin less than two hours later spoke of SAS units "in and out of uniform." This unnerving contradiction of official announcements must do little to reassure the fear ridden community. Who was right?
Distortion, rumours, fearmongering, incitement and lies have been layered on to the Northerii community. Who can they believe? And so they believe no-one, and rely on their own experiences or background; and these "experiences" will include the Bat
tle of the Boyne, Carson, Wolfe Tone and Partition.
The leakage of police suspicions to the Rev Ian Paisley in the North, and the use he makes of those leakages, is causing concern to the Irish Government. The latest example has been the Rev Paisley's claim that the assassins who murdered the to Protestants in Kingsmills fled South immediately afterwards, It may in time prove that this was what in fact did happen, but at the time of writing there is no conclusive proof or evidence to back up Paisley's claim. In the circumstances. his claim, and the leakage on which it was based, constitute the gravest form of irresponsibility, fanning as they do the flames of suspicion and hatred.
The same observation is directly applicable to the affair of the van found south of Dundalk on the morning after the gunning down of the men near Kingsmills. Experts at the Garda Technical Bureau have still not completed forensic tests on the vehicle.
Until these have been completed, it is impossible to say definitely that the van was linked with the murders. Yet, assertions were being made on the day after the shootings that the van was hijacked on Monday afternoon in Dundalk, was used in connection with the assassinations, used in the ambush, and later found abandoned on the Ardee road south of Dundalk.
This kind of precipitate publicity is not only contentious, but in the volatile situation that exists here, extremely dangerous.
On the balance of probability and the available evidence so far, the murderers were not only from the North, but were based there. As in all assassinations of both Catholics and Protestants, detailed local knowledge was essential — and was clearly present. When John A. Costello, SC, died recently at the age of 84, Ireland lost one of its most distinguished public men. His death marked the passing of another great man in the history of the Republic.
Together with his old political foe, Eamonn de Valera, he was con ferred with the Freedom of Dublin City last March. During his speech of acceptance, Mr Costello referred to Mr de Valera as "the protagonist with whom I fought, line by line, each section of the Constitution."
Mr Costello was a lawyer and barrister, having graduated with first class honours in 1914. His achievements at that time included winning the Barton Prize and several scholarships and exhibitions in law, including the Victoria Prizes at Kings Inns in 1913 and 1914.
He was Attorney General of the Irish Free State from 1926 to 1932, and in his legal capacity he represented the Free State at the Imperial Conferences of 1926, 1929 and 1932 in London. Costello also acted on five occasions as a delegate to the League of Nations and other conferences in Geneva.
In 1933, he was elected to the Dail as a Fine Gael representative for County Dublin. But it was not until 1948 that he was singled out as a leader of men — and much against his own inclinations,
r Sean McBride (who was to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974) had
formed his Clann na Poblachta Par ty. That party gained 10 seats in its very first election, and the Fianna Fail 16-year monopoly was broken.
John Costello was asked to be the leader of the new inter-party government. He was seen to be the only political personality who could weld together the motley collection of parties and politicians.
As far as Mr Costello was concerned, his government's greatest achievement was the Republic of Ireland Bill (introduced in November 1948) which changed the description and status of the Irish State, and led to the formal inauguration of the Republic on Easter Monday, 1949. "The pirouetting on the point of a needle has ceased. Ireland's status is now defined," The declaration brought from Britain's Labour government under Mr Clement Atlee, The Ireland Act. This safeguarded the position of Irish citizens in Britain and the Commonwealth; but it also strengthened the Unionist position in the North.
Incidentally in that Costello inter-party government was the young Dr Noel Browne, reckoned to have been one or the finest Health Ministers the country has known. During his short term of office. Browne radically improved the health of the nation.
Tuberculosis had been an everpresent spectre in Irish life. Many families as well as individuals were doomed. But Dr Browne tackled that problem and he succeeded in eradicating TB.
He set about many reforms, and ironically it was opposition to his Mother and Chitd Scheme by the Catholichierarchy that helpec bring down the inter-party govern. ment in 1951.
But in 1954, John A. Costello again headed an inter-party government. It lasted three years. Six years after its break-up Costello moved to the back benches. He had already returned to the bar, resuming the outstanding position which he formerly occupied as one of the country's most distinguished lawyers.
John A. Costello's last years were made happy by his son Decian's solid commitment to and effective participation in a social welfare coalition government made possible only by John Costello's own efforts of 28 years ago.