My own experiences with Gerry Kelly as a comrade on a difficult mission in England and our subsequent imprisonment together leaves me somewhat emotionally vulnerable to the person. We went through a lot together. It causes me a great deal of pain to ridicule the boy I once knew to be stubborn, anti-establishment, arrogant as only those who are convinced of the rightness of their cause can be. A man-boy who endured the same rigours of hunger-strike and force-feeding as myself, my sister, Hugh Feeney and others on our failed mission.
I got to know Gerry Kelly well, from the boy leaping over bollards at Trafalgar Square to the boy who stood proudly in the dock at Winchester Crown Court to receive his life sentence and twenty years; the boy who was dragged from the dock declaring his loyalty to the Republican Cause, ÒDamn your concessions England we want our country!Ó To now witness what he has become, a British lackey, a forelock tugging parody of an enslaved people, a puppet for the Brits and all that is bad in our country, that causes me deep pain, deep hurt, hurt because Gerry Kelly was a person that I once loved as one can only love a brother or a comrade.
I don’t know why he gave up on the struggle, why he accepted partition as a given, why he plays the role of “police” for the Brits. I will never deny him his place as a brave man. He endured the English prison system, he was no coward then. Yet now I see him posturing, serious, camera conscious, politician, whatever the moment seems to demand. Whatever he has been told to be, he is.
Why, I don’t know. Power? Money? Notoriety? Acceptance? It leaves me baffled; he was a grands? lad and I could never have foreseen an outcome such as him as an upholder of the British rule in Ireland. It seemed then, all those years ago, that he above all others would stay staunch, or like many who have been disappointed, he would close his door and keep his principles intact.
What was it really all about? I know that the Gerry Kelly, the boy I went to jail with, was his own person – but who owns him now and what price has he settled for? That he turns against his own community, waves the occupiers to safety and asks the people of Ardoyne to get back down on their knees – that is beyond my comprehension.
Back down on their knees to let the sectarian police force escort the sectarian “We are The People” mob strut their hatred past a community which has endured flames, murder, prison, torture and assassination. He had the gall to tell these people to get back down with their faces in the dirt so that “The People” could walk back to their old ways, the old days where “no Fenian may apply”.
And for what, Gerry? A job at Stormont or perhaps with the new “reformed” PSNI, because, believe me, Gerry, you will be let rise to no great heights in the “reformed” Provisional Party. You WERE in the IRA and you stank of cordite and that is a part of Republican history too many of your party are ashamed of.
When we starved together it was not “to move the process forward”, it was not for seats in a British Government, it was not to be treated as “equals” in a Stormont Assembly. It was, I like to think, because we had a shared passion for justice and freedom for this island, the whole of this island of Ireland. I believe that we were dedicated to the old struggle to rid this land of any British interference, that our wish was to regain our dignity as Irishmen and women never again to bend the knee, never again to lie down except in death after a good fight. Death would never have been our defeat – living on our knees, now that is defeat!
I admired and respected the boy I went to jail with. The man today? I don’t even know who he is.