Monday, October 31, 2016

Mighty Cuchulain on Samhain

It is rumored that on Samhain, the mighty warrior Cuchulain went to battle. Samhain, the end of summer and harvest and into winter, is a powerful and significant night. 

Throughout decades of violence and centuries of unrest, mistrust, and occupation, the prospect of peace is finally being realized in secret meetings, public displays of solidarity, and private negotiations. The last three years have been the most promising times in recent history of the Anglo - Irish peace talks. Differing from the “must win” ideology of his brother, David seeks compromise to end the conflict that rules his life. David understands the politics in the struggle and knows that compromise is inevitable.

            He comes across as David the construction worker, loyal Donegal Celtic fan and amateur footballer. He doesn’t reveal his years of studying The Book of Five Rings, Sun Tzu or countless books on the history of Irish politics to many. He’s risen through the ranks of the Provisionals rather quickly because of his natural leadership ability. He may be young, but he comes across as a seasoned veteran of the Irish War. Most importantly, he’ll asking nothing of his men that he wouldn’t do himself.

            It’s getting late as David meets with Martin, the Officer Commanding, or OC, of the local brigade. Many believe Martin is preparing David for future leadership. Martin can be particularly tough on David, pressing him on issues, mistakes and decisions. It could also be because Martin was best friends with David's father and really became a surrogate to him growing up. Either way, David is given a lot of responsibility within the Army. Martin doesn’t look the commander that he once was. His blonde hair has turned a yellowed white. The lines on his face, exacerbated by years of cigarettes and neat whiskeys to the wee hours

            “Ye know it won’t be seen as a break in the ceasefire,” Martin emphasizes as he attempts to calm David down.

            “What the fuck were they thinking?” David stares at Martin.

            “They already took responsibility for the shooting, David.”

            David knows Martin is guessing and isn't certain about the status of the ceasefire. The talks hang in the balance over the promise of laying down weapons. "Martin, come on. The RUC doesn't care if they claimed responsibility. The INLA or not, a cop gets shot they cry IRA. The news cries IRA.

            "No punishment." Martin sits up emphatically.

            "What if we…." David would like to demonstrate to the contending nationalist group, that they are all in the ceasefire together. Punishment beatings are used amongst those many would think are on the same side of the fight.

            Martin snaps at him quickly, "No. Is that to be understood? What's next on the agenda?"

            Silence as David hesitates, "I was thinking."

"Jesus wept," Martin knows when David is stalling. He sits back and crosses his arms, "go on."

 "What if there’s an informant?" David knows this is a loaded question because he knows that Martin does have informants, the RUC has informants, Jesus, for all he knows Abbi has a tout within the IRA, but David means one that is deliberately working against him. This is a serious accusation that will of course need some type of evidence to back it up.

Martin does not stir from the position he is in. "You’ve my attention."
            David moves closer to Martin, speaking in almost a hushed tone, even though they both know that no one can hear them. "Ten of my guys have either taken shots or almost been blown up in the last two weeks. Not Danny’s, not Brian’s, my guys. That's not a coincidence if ye ask me."

“What else is it, David?” Martin moves closer and leans on the table.

“I don’t know if it’s true and I don’t know who it would be.” David removes the prison comm from his shirt pocket and hands it to Martin.  

Martin takes the paper but maintains eye contact with David for an extra second, as if he is trying to read his thoughts. He reads the tiny print on the paper, shaking his head in disgust. "A dissident breakaway? Right, I’ll speak to the IO." He pauses. “Who got this for you?” He holds the comm up.

“I had someone get it…”

“Who?” Martin is terse in his question.

David swallows then sighs. “Abbi.”

“I’ve told you before, you’re not to use her anymore for this.” His face reddens quickly.

“But she’s good, Martin.” David leans forward.

Martin bangs his hand on the table. “You’ll find your kneecaps on the other end of an armalite if I find out you use her again. Understood?”

David nods, a bit shocked at the firmness of the order.  “Did something happen? Someone say something?”

“Understood?” Martin asks that single world slowly, separating the syllables with a bevy of potential unspoken repercussions.

“Yes. Understood.”

"You’ll await instructions. More than likely you’ll be on the court martial.” Martin formally ends the meeting by standing. “I was thinking the same but you confirmed my suspicions. We’ll need to start getting evidence down in writing. I’ll ring you tomorrow.” Martin shuts the door behind him but quickly opens it again. “I mean it, about Abbi.”

            David sits alone in the poorly lit room. He thinks about failure. His men are getting injured and the talks are stagnant at best. He thinks about his brother and wonders how he would handle this situation. Panic sets in as he wonders if he made the right decision. It could just be coincidence and he could be jeopardizing someone who is innocent, but that is the purpose of the court martial.

            Tactically, he’s been successful. Proposing to call an end to the ceasefire the year before could have made matters worse. Increasing violence and talking less seemed to work though and moved the process to where the other side would sit down and talk peace.

Strategically, David is starting to question himself. In the event that peace does break out in the middle of all the violence, he won’t be able stop fighting. Some see negotiations as giving up and feel that David is not any better than the opposition.

            David hears Martin leave through the front door. He knows that someone’s life is now at stake, if not even more so, his own. He twists his wedding ring around few times before taking it off. He puts the ring back on his finger and places his hands on his face. He draws his hands down to his mouth and sighs. He thinks about Abbi. That Martin was right. His decision to not tell Martin all along that Abbi has been getting information was wrong, but not worthy of his reaction.

            “He’s just lookin’ out for her best interest.” David talks to himself. “I should’ve known better.” He sits up. “Right.” He stands