The motivation behind it & the input of former Prisoners Of War
On a personal level I have seen a number of changes in the RSM since I became first involved with the Movement.
The formation of the RSM was like a breath of fresh air to myself and a number of other comrades as we felt that the movement we were in,” The Officials”, had become stale and lacked motivation.
The ideas and principles that Seamus Costello proposed were based on everything that I had originally joined a revolutionary organisation to adhere to. Unfortunately the fledgling RSM did not get time to establish itself as there was a pogrom of intimidation and murder from their former comrades that unfortunately took up most of the RSM’S time and energies in trying to defend its members.
This pogrom lasted only a few months but it halted the RSM’S progress in the political arena and it took a long time for it to recover. It would be unfair to suggest that that was the only obstacle in their way as the state forces on both sides of the border seemed to be over zealous in their attempts in destroying the RSM as a whole.
One has only to recollect The Sallins Train Robbery when RSM members were physically and mentally abused by Free State forces only later for them to be acquitted. It was not until around the time of the Hunger Strikes that the RSM came to the forefront of Politics in the Belfast area with the election of two city councillors to the City Hall. During these times the Military wing of the movement continued with its war against the British war machine registering a number of successful operations all around the country.
Unfortunately every war has its casualties and the RSM were no exception with a number of its senior members being assassinated by Loyalists and others Killed In Action. Although normally a relatively small and tight knit organisation, they were always represented and were able to get their point across. This was evident in the H Blocks of Long Kesh when a number of RSM prisoners took part in the Hunger Strikes with the eventual death of three of them. The Supergrass system halted the rsm;s progress with a large number of its members being basically interned on remand.
Tragically there were other splits developing within the movement were dominant personalities played a major role which ultimately resulted in the death of more volunteers.
Unfortunately as times changed the RSM were beginning to get left out of the Political arena and were banned from speaking at rallies and demonstrations around the country. This led to tensions with other Republican Organisations with even RSM prisoners being physically removed from the Prison Wings as they were classed as common criminals.
Thankfully they were eventually given their own wing but this ostersization policy left a lasting impression on the prisoners. .Not to be humiliated, the prisoners made their own statement to the outside world with the assassination of mass murderer Billy “King Rat” Wright.
The RSM opposed the signing of the Good Friday Agreement stating that, among other things, it could not work as the minority I all of Ireland still held the upper hand and that all groups were not represented equally.
Although a minority grouping within the movement tried to dictate the calling of a premature ceasefire, this was dealt with eventually and the movement called a ceasefire when it was the political thing to do and benefited from the release of its Political prisoners.
The RSM has had its problems in the past with different splits and defections but it has always come through and overcame any obstacle that was put in front of it. With the Stormont Assembly at a standstill the Movement in general in generating more and more support within the communities as people are becoming more disillusioned with the Political Stalemate.
People are realising that what they voted for in the elections are not what they are getting delivered. The formation of Teach na Failte, the support group for Republican Socialist ex-prisoners brought a number of former prisoners back together again by allocating jobs and helping them with their own basic problems. Before this group was set up there was nowhere for RSM ex-prisoners to go for help and as a whole felt isolated in their communities.
Local Cumanns are also getting bigger and one has only to look at the Easter Parade these last two years where the starting point had to be moved another mile down the road to facilitate the growing number of supporters attending.
Meeting at this event has rekindled old acquaintances and former comrades can reminisce about former memories and so this in turn has not only swelled the ranks at Easter but contributed to the membership of the RSM. Former comrades realised that The RSM were getting stronger and realised that they had a role to play and a lot to offer the movement as a whole.
The erection of Memorial plaques around the country has galvanised a lot of former comrades and they have come forward to offer what help they can. This was realised when commemorations were held before the unveiling of these plaques as the number of ex-prisoners and former comrades grew at every march.
Many of these ex-prisoners had been incarcerated in the Cages of Long Kesh in the late seventies and had taken a back seat after their release but the direction of the movement and the absence of dominant personalities encouraged a lot of them to return to offer whatever help they could. This was evident when committees were formed and protest marches were planned as more and more ex-pows came to the fore.
Their involvement in the movement is priceless as they have experience in how the movement used to be organised also how things developed in prison. When I sit at meetings and former prisoners are present their input is generally accepted with a certain degree of reverence as they have normally been in a similar situation before and they would have some experience in how to deal with it.