By Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
18 April 1981
The Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association said that the vote was a “vote for the IRA”. Attempting to prove this point the terror gang’s leader, Andy Tyrie, said: “If a UDA man had stood in the same election he would have been lucky to get five thousands votes. This IRA man got thirty thousands votes.” The UDA, who for a number of years have been advocating, without success, six-county “independence” (thru a front organization, the New Ulster Political Research Group), while carrying out a sectarian assassination campaign, made the excuse that the election result would drive them away from “politics” and back to paramilitarism, which they have never abandoned anyway. A crisis meeting of UDA commanders was held in Belfast on Tuesday evening to discuss the future of their “independence” front group, though no immediate statement was made.
Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party were undoubtedly pleased at the result, since it allowed them, in the run-up to the local government elections in May, to blame the Official Unionists for not accepting an “agreed” candidate, and at the same time gave them the opportunity to launch the sectarian broadsides at the Catholic people. “Now we know,” said Paisley, addressing a loyalist rally in Glasgow last Saturday, “where the Roman Catholics in Ulster and the so-called moderates stand. More than thirty thousand of them have voted for the IRA commandant in the Maze prison.” (Nevermind that one hundred and eighty thousands unionists in the 1979 European elections voted for a raving bigot with a history of over twenty-five years of anti-Catholic sectarianism behind him!)
Apart from Sile de Valera’s welcome for the result, there was very little reaction from Free State politicians. Similarly, British politicians were reticent to speak about the repercussions for the continuation of the policy of criminalization. British premier Margaret Thatcher, where interviewed exclusively on ITN “News at Ten” last Monday evening, was extremely evasive even when being questioned by a sympathetic interviewer. She reiterated that there is to be no change in British government policy towards the North despite the election result.
On Tuesday the British cabinet met, and reports after the grisly discussion indicated that ministers were told to prepare for the inevitable prospect of Bobby Sands’ death. The British government again reaffirmed that it had no intention of giving the prisoners their five demands, and afterwards Thatcher conveniently took herself off to India and the Gulf States for an eleven-day tour as the crisis point in Bobby Sands’ life rapidly approached.