Bog Days

'Paddy Bogside'   by Paddy Doherty & Peter Hegarty
Mercier Press, 2001, 240 pp, £8.99

Paddy the Bog was and still is an important figure in Derry City. His book was successfully launched at the Calgach Centre, which he had created, in the heart of Derry a few weeks ago. All the great and good of Derry flocked there to accord him plaudits and praise. And, to a large extent, he deserves it. He has done a lot for the Derry working class – and perhaps even more for the middle class. Be that as it may, the Bog played a major role in the years 1967 through the 1970s. Unfortunately, the current book only goes up to 1969 and gives the Bog's 'memoirs' of the Derry Citizens' Defence Association' over which the self confessed Machiavellian Doherty ruled.

And this is the main problem with the Bog. He is a bitter man. Despite efforts to conceal it, he has nothing good to say about anyone except himself. Hume, Ivan Cooper (yes, folks, he's still alive and running a somewhat shady entrepreneurial Kapitalist business) and even the late Michael Canavan, his main financial backer in the old days, are slyly excoriated. Doherty even, at one point let's the cat out of the bag when he claims, correctly, that 'Sean Keenan was the physical force man, John Hume was the constitutionalist and I was the wheeler-dealer in the middle, dealing with the Britz and the Irish political hacks like Lynch, Blaney and O'Brien.' Ye see, the Bog has always fancied himself as 'a cute wee hure.' And he is. This isn't an insult. Well, at least not a major one, as far as Paddy B goes, but Doherty/Hegarty get annoying when they revile Bernadette Devlin – 'a blow-in', Eamon McCann 'a mad leftie', who, in a fit of braggadocio Doherty claims that he threatened to shoot and the Peoples' Democracy as 'idealistic young students who were out of their depth'.

Doherty comes across as not schizophrenic so much as suffering from multiple personality disorder. Born in extreme poverty in the Bogside in 1926, he brought himself up by his bootstraps, raised a family of 13 children in the Bog and saw them all grow up to have the professional qualifications that, leaving school at 14, he could not get. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers. Their father has gone on to become one of the most powerful businessmen in Derry, creator of the Inner City trust, raiser of Yankee dollars, Brit handouts and Euro largesse.

The book however, which is allegedly the first part of a trilogy, does throw some light on the sordid dealings between Doherty, Canavan and the other businessmen when they colluded with the British Army to get the barricades down in Derry after the Battle of the 1969. The Bog even boasts about his double dealing and his meetings with James Callaghan, Quentin Hogg, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Brit generals, 'Beezer' Porter – Unionist Minister of Home Affairs, and RUCkers. He was easy to flatter – any attention or titles appealed to the working class kid with an inferiority complex. He was a wannabee starfucker. (We fear that Vol. II will contain cringing crap re the Kennedys and other Irish-American wankdogs.)

But there is a terrible confusion in the book. A fervent Nationalist on one hand, Doherty (quite rightly) dismisses the old Eddie 'Racketeer half a loaf' McAteer and starts by praising Sean Keenan, the old IRA O/C in Derry, but then he eschews physical violence, turns down the offer of 200 rifles from the Free State Army in Donegal, hands back a serving Brit Army agent from a Loyalist background (Thomas Laird McGonigal who was a suspect in a bombing in Dublin) but also goes off to have 'arms training' in Donegal with Fóras Cosantais Aitiuil, better known as the Free Clothes Association who stood idly by on the orders of the treacherous Jack Lynch.

But, at the end of the day, Boggy, ye never threw a stone, or a petrol bomb or fired a gun, despite it all, and you took the barricades down and allowed the State back in. Doherty relates, 'more in sorry than in anger,' for he is a Christian and a 'good Catholic'. In 1969 Doherty and Canavan, after the battle of the Bogside, organized the dockers to force out the students and take down the Bogside barricades to let the army in. (Shades of Richard Nixon paying hardhat workers to assault anti-Vietnam demonstrators back in the late sixties.)
According to Doherty, a student shouted at him:
'Hitler used the dockers; Mussolini used the dockers; and now Doherty is using the dockers to take the barricades down.' This Doherty admits, with pride, was true.

And, the terrible truth is that that young German student was right.

When it comes to the dealings that he had 'on behalf of the Bogside' with Free State Ministers such as Blaney, Boland, Haughey and finally 'the treacherous Jack Lynch' the Bog becomes extremely censorious. If only everyone had followed his plans everything would be all right and we'd have had a United Ireland years ago, for Paddy is always right and everyone else is wrong.

Well, mucker, we'll see.

By all means buy and read this book, but beware. He may be an admirable person in various ways but he's a self-serving and bitter wee bugger as well.


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