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Fintan O’Toole: The full, unexpurgated version of Up the ’Ra

Up cutting the legs off young women shopping for wedding dresses. Up torturing kids with Black & Decker drills through their kneecaps

I am all in favour of people singing Up the ’Ra. So long as it’s the full version intended by the artists rather than the radio-friendly edit.

The original version is quite a work of art:

Up cutting the legs off young women shopping for wedding dresses. Up torturing kids with Black & Decker drills through their kneecaps. Up 36 children under the age of 18 subjected to “punishment beatings” in the 1990s alone.

Up burying the body of a widow in a secret place and telling her 10 kids that their mother has run off with some man and left them.


Up massacring those mourning the dead of two world wars. Up Gordon Wilson trapped in the rubble of Enniskillen with his daughter Marie, holding her hand and hearing her last words. Up “Daddy, I love you very much.”

Up timing bombs in pubs precisely for the right hour on pay night when they’d be full of young working-class couples. Up incinerating the members of the Irish Collie Club so thoroughly that their bodies were beyond recognition because, well, those were Protestant dogs.

Up hunting down the last of the Graham brothers after you’d got the other two, then driving through the town roaring “Yahoo! Yahoo!” Up putting bombs on school buses full of children.

Up killing Irish policemen and soldiers on duty. Up executing a young mother for the crime of delivering census forms.

Up setting fire to the Linen Hall Library, founded by some of those who also created the United Irishmen. Up systematically destroying the centre of Derry so that it looked to the city’s natives as if it had been flattened by the Luftwaffe.

Up killing a man, then booby-trapping his corpse with a bomb to kill those who came to examine the body.

Up shooting elected politicians in the head because they were unionists. Up blowing the head off an 86-year-old man because he used to be a unionist politician years before.

Up blowing up a young girl who was being collected from dancing lessons by her grandfather, so that her foot was found in a nearby field with the ballet shoe still neatly attached.

Up all the images of severed body parts that have first responders waking up screaming in the night decades later.

Up putting bombs in Mothercare on Oxford Street and a record shop on the Charing Cross Road. Up fire bombs, pipe bombs, nail bombs, fertiliser bombs, mortar bombs, car bombs, under-car bombs, van bombs, bus bombs, coach bombs, letter bombs, parcel bombs, book bombs, coffee jar bombs, proxy bombs, no-warning bombs.

Oh, and up human bombs. Up kidnapping the family and forcing the father (on pain of having his wife and children murdered) to drive a bomb into a checkpoint, killing himself and others.

Up “mistaken identity”, used to explain 17 IRA assassinations in one nine-month period alone. Up “legitimate target”, our flexible friend.

Up “collateral damage”. Up “these things happen in war”. Up “regrettable but unavoidable”.

Up “we tried to give a warning but the phone wasn’t working”. Up planting a second bomb to catch the people running away from the first one – regrettably.

Up putting bombs beside primary schools, day care centres and kindergartens in Catholic communities. Up “the blessings of God no one was hurt”.

Up kangaroo courts. Up making a girl who had been raped appear before her rapist in an IRA “trial”. Up boys who were raped by an IRA man being ordered to say whether or not they would like him to be executed.

Up stopping a bus full of 11 workers, singling out the one Catholic and massacring the 10 Protestants. Up deliberately and cold-bloodedly executing a 15-year-old Irish boy for the crime of working on a boat belonging to a member of the British royal family.

Up using fraudulent fronts to claim atrocities so hideous even you did not want to acknowledge that you did them. Up Red Flag ‘74 for Birmingham and Guilford. Up South Armagh Republican Action Force for Kingsmills. Up brazenly lying that you had nothing to do with the Claudy massacre.

Up killing people to get rid of the Border but getting rich from smuggling fuel across it. Up poisoning drinking water by dumping the waste in the local reservoirs. Up evading taxes on a grand scale while demanding more government spending.

Up cutting a man’s throat and gouging out his eye in a Belfast pub because he got into a row with an IRA bigwig. Up everyone else in the pub miraculously being in the toilets at the time and seeing nothing. Up warning the man’s sisters to “be careful” about their campaign for justice.

Up whataboutery. Up what about the Famine, the Brits, the Loyalists, 800 years of oppression? Up everything you did being the fault of history.

Up “no alternative”. Up all these things being simultaneously sadly regrettable and fully justified. Up demanding justice for all victims except the ones you created.

Up the maimed and the bereaved, the broken and the bereft. Up those who died for Ireland even though they had no choice in the matter.

Up ’em all, up ’em all. You could sing that if you had the air to it.