Danny Morrison (author)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Danny Morrison (writer))
Jump to: navigation, search
Danny Morrison
Danny Morrison 2012.jpg
Morrison in 2012
Born (1953-01-09) 9 January 1953 (age 61)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Occupation Author
Politician
Political Activist
Nationality Irish
Notable works Hunger Strike (editor)
Website
http://www.dannymorrison.com

Daniel Gerard Morrison (born 9 January 1953[1]), known generally as Danny Morrison, is an Irish author and activist who played a crucial role in public events during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. A republican, Morrison is also a former Sinn Féin publicity director. He is the secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust, and current chairman of Féile an Phobail, the largest community arts festival in Ireland.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Morrison was born in staunchly nationalist Andersonstown, Belfast, on 9 January 1953 to Daniel and Susan Morrison. His father worked as a painter at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in East Belfast. The Morrisons were a strongly republican family. His uncles had been jailed for their part in the IRA's Northern Campaign in the 1940s; one of his uncles was Harry White, a prominent IRA volunteer from a previous generation. Morrison joined Sinn Féin in 1966 and helped to organise 50th anniversary commemorations of the Easter Rising in Belfast. At this time, he later recalled, "as far as we were concerned, there was absolutely no chance of the IRA appearing again. They were something in history books".

IRA Membership[edit]

After the 1969 Northern Ireland Riots, in which nationalist areas of Belfast were attacked and burned, he joined the newly formed Provisional IRA. He believed that, "the IRA had been deliberately run down, so that when August 1969 came, there was little or no defence [of nationalist areas]'...[so] a new IRA was built to ensure that nationalists were never left defenceless again". After this, he was engaged in clandestine republican activities, but as late as 1971, was still attending Belfast College of Business Studies and editing a student magazine there. Morrison was interned in Long Kesh in 1972. His two sisters married British soldiers whom they had met when British troops were deployed to keep order in Belfast in 1969.[citation needed]

Political activist[edit]

Morrison's talents for writing and publicity were quickly recognised within the republican movement and after his release in 1975, Billy McKee, IRA O/C for Belfast, appointed him editor of Republican News. In this journal, he criticised many long standing policies of the movement, especially the Eire Nua, programme, which advocated a federal united Ireland, with autonomy for Ulster. At this time, he became associated with a grouping of young, left-wing Belfast based republicans, led by Gerry Adams, who wanted to change the strategy, tactics and leadership of the IRA and Sinn Féin. In particular, Morrison believed the IRA's 1975 ceasefire was, 'a disaster'. He was especially critical of IRA killings of other republicans and Protestant civilians, which enabled the British government to portray the organisation as a criminal or sectarian group.[citation needed]

With the rise of Adams' faction to the leadership of the republican movement in the late 1970s, Morrison was given the important position of Director of Publicity for Sinn Féin. The new leadership wanted their political wing to fight elections in addition to their paramilitary wing's armed campaign. However, they believed that in order for it to be effective, there would be a need to change the constitution of Sinn Féin, which at that time forbade the party's members from taking seats in the parliament of Britain, Ireland or Northern Ireland.[citation needed]

During the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike, Morrison acted as spokesman for the IRA hunger strikers' leader Bobby Sands, who was elected to the British Parliament on an Anti H-Block platform. It has been written that "Danny Morrison, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams were the only individuals of sufficient clout to offer the 'persuasion, education and knowledge' to push through any deal" between the strikers and British officials.[2] Blanket Man Richard O'Rawe and others have claimed that Adams, McGuinness and Morrison withheld an offer and subsequent offers from the British which could have ended the Hunger Strike after four deaths. [3] This claim however, is fiercely disputed by Morrison and Sinn Féin.

At the 1981 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Morrison made a famous speech in which he called for the constitution to be changed. He said, "Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in one hand and an Armalite in this hand, we take power in Ireland?" It is from this speech that the famous term "Armalite and ballot box strategy" derived. The term described the two-pronged approach of the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin as it sought to advance the republican cause.[4] In reply, Sinn Féin President Ruairi O Bradaigh argued that the Ard-Fheis should not "swap a slogan for a policy", referring to Éire Nua. In early 1982, loyalist paramilitaries unsuccessfully attempted to kill Morrison and his first wife, opening fire on them as they walked from a local bar.[citation needed] Later, at the Ard Fheis in 1982, Morrison famously said of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, "She's the biggest bastard we have ever known."[5]

Morrison was elected as a Sinn Féin Member for Mid Ulster of a short-lived Northern Ireland Assembly from 1982 to 1986. He also stood unsuccessfully for the European Parliament in 1984, receiving 91,476 votes and again in 1989. He also stood for the Mid Ulster Westminster seat in 1983 and 1986. Morrison, along with Owen Carron, was arrested on 21 January 1982 whilst attempting to enter the United States illegally from Canada by car. He was deported and later both men were convicted on a charge of making false statements to American immigration officials.[6]

1990 arrest[edit]

Morrison was director of publicity for Sinn Féin from 1979 until 1990,[7] when he was charged with false imprisonment and conspiracy to murder a British double agent in the PIRA, Sandy Lynch.[8] He was sentenced to eight years in prison and was released in 1995.

The conviction was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the convictions of Morrison and the other defendants were overturned in 2008. Unusually, the reason was given in a confidential annex, which Morrison and the others were not allowed access because the report contained classified details about security-force agents. Morrison and the Police Ombudsman[who?] spoke in various BBC documentaries of MI5 secrecy and questioned the legality of many British operations.[9]

Author[edit]

Since 1989, Morrison has published several novels and plays on themes relating to republicanism and events in the modern history of Belfast. His latest play, The Wrong Man, opened in London in 2005.[10] It is based on his 1997 book of the same name and deals with the career of an IRA man who is suspected by his colleagues of working for the police.

His first novel, West Belfast, has been described as “significant for its honest portrayal of a conflict which has been written on extensively by outsiders but rarely by the people involved...This is perhaps the first time that a modern Irish Republican has attempted to show in novel form what his community has gone through under British oppression.”[11] His second book, On The Back of the Swallow, deals with homosexual relationships, loss and the taboo around such relationships during the conflict in Northern Ireland and the treatment of gay men by the RUC. His latest original work, Rebel Columns was published in 2004 followed by Hunger Strike, which features contributions, poems and stories from Christy Moore and Ulick O'Connor, with an international view of the hunger strikes from an Iranian man originally published in The Blanket.[citation needed]

The Belfast Telegraph reviewer wrote that his third book, The Wrong Man (1997), "should come to be regarded as one of the most important books of the Troubles", while the Sunday Times called it "a powerful and complex piece of storytelling". The book is discussed in the Oxford Companion to Irish Literature, which describes it as "a powerful evocation of betrayal, deceit and guilt".[12][13] It was adapted into a play that was produced in London in 2005.[14]

His fourth book, 'Then the Walls Came Down: A Prison Journal' (1999), was described in the Irish Times as 'remarkable as a human document' and compared it to Brendan Behan's 'Borstal Boy'.[15] Another review in the same newspaper called it 'one of the most important books to emerge from the conflict in Northern Ireland… a vividly humane account of life in prison.[16] 'The Observer commented that in 'post-ceasefire Northern Ireland...the new thinking has come from those involved in the republican war. Danny Morrison's prison memoirs in an honest study of a man seeking fresh solutions to the stalemate the Provos found themselves in at the beginning of the Nineties.'[17] The Irish News said it was 'invaluable as a rare look at prisoners as human beings.'[18]

All the Dead Voices (2002) is a memoir. It was followed by Rebel Columns (2004), a collection of articles. Morrison edited Hunger Strike: Reflections on the 1981 Hunger Strike (2007), which features poems, stories, and reflections on the strike by such contributors as Tony Benn, Edna O'Brien and Christy Moore. The publisher describes the book as follows: "Well-known novelists and poets, former prisoners and activists reflect upon the deaths of the ten republican hunger strikers who died in protest to gain political prisoner status from the British government in Northern Ireland. Their deaths proved a turning point in relations between Britain and Ireland in the early 1980s. Most of the pieces here were specifically commissioned, and while they differ greatly, what they have in common is a sense of the intensity of the experience of the hunger strike at the time, and the intensity of the impression made by it even now."[19]

Morrison lives in West Belfast with his Canadian-born wife, Leslie; he has two sons from his first marriage.[citation needed]

Select bibliography[edit]

  • 1989 – West Belfast
  • 1994 – On The Back of the Swallow
  • 1997 – The Wrong Man
  • 1999 – Then The Walls Came Down
  • 2002 – All The Dead Voices
  • 2004 – Rebel Columns
  • 2008 – Hunger Strike (editor)
  • 2010 – Rudi

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Danny Morrison official website
  2. ^ Bew, John. "Early hopes give way to hostility and suspicions". Irish Times. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-16392587
  4. ^ Danny Morrison profile
  5. ^ 'Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA', pp. 207–208
  6. ^ Morrison info in The New York Times
  7. ^ Dominic Cavendish (22 March 2005). "Too hot to handle". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  8. ^ Owen Bowcott (26 February 1991). "IRA officer tells of terror threat". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  9. ^ "Morrison conviction is quashed". BBC News. 24 October 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Karen Fricker (16 March 2005). "Too hot to handle". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 10 March 2007. 
  11. ^ "Amazon". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Irishabroad". Irish Abroad. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "Danny Morrison.com". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  14. ^ "Irishabroad". Irish Abroad. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "The Irish Times". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  16. ^ "The Irish Times". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  17. ^ "The Observer". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "The Irish News". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "Amazon". Retrieved 4 October 2012. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Sean Caughey
Editor of Republican News
1975–1979
Succeeded by
Merged with An Phoblacht
Preceded by
Deasún Breathnach
Editor of An Phoblacht
1979–1982
Succeeded by
Mick Timothy
Party political offices
Preceded by
Seán Ó Brádaigh
Sinn Féin Director of Publicity
1979–1990
Succeeded by
Rita O'Hare