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Will anyone ever say ‘sorry’ in Northern Ireland? Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries are still unable to acknowledge the terrible wrongs they did

Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald carrying the coffin of former IRA leader and Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness. Photo" PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images

Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald carrying the coffin of former IRA leader and Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness. Photo" PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images


December 4, 2020   9 mins

Families who were bereaved or injured during the Troubles in Northern Ireland face a very painful truth today. It is that, along with the private loss which they constantly bear, they are now very likely to find themselves continuously wounded and insulted afresh by the ongoing public conversation. In the twenty-two years since the Belfast Agreement was signed, that situation has not got better, but substantially worse.

Take, for example, the discussion that emerged some weeks ago when Billy Hutchinson, the leader of a small loyalist party called the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), launched his memoir, My Life in Loyalism, with a number of press interviews. Hutchinson’s previous career was in the Ulster Volunteer Force, a loyalist paramilitary organisation — linked to the PUP — which was primarily known for brutal sectarian killing.

Hutchinson’s public profile rose in line with the ‘peace process’ and his support for a loyalist ceasefire. But back in 1974 he was convicted of a UVF double murder, in which he and another UVF man shot dead two young Catholic half-brothers, Michael Loughran, 18, and Edward Eric Morgan, 27. The young men were walking down the Falls Road on their way to work one morning when a car drew up beside them and gunmen opened fire. The court was told that the victims were selected at random for what were described by the judge as “cold-blooded murders”.

Hutchinson’s mention of his victims in his book, as reported by the Irish Times, is somewhat different. The men had, he said, been identified as “active republicans. How accurate the information was, I don’t know”. The passivity of the voice is striking, as is the ambiguity of “I don’t know”. Yet there was no indication whatsoever during court proceedings that his victims were involved in the IRA. They have never been claimed or commemorated by any republican paramilitary organisation.

Their cousin, only 12 years old when they were shot, later wrote Hutchinson an open letter in which he reiterated their lack of paramilitary involvement. In it, he movingly described the catastrophic shock for his family, and the few items that his cousin Eric left behind: a handful of albums — “Tubular Bells at the front” — and the little military pewter figurines he liked to paint.

Hutchinson has said that, “I accept responsibility for what I did”. So why continue to prolong a family’s pain by insinuating a political justification? Because the alternative is Hutchinson taking the consequences of his own action fully upon himself. This he refuses to do, despite arguing for the necessity of a peaceful future. In fact, he said as much in the recent interview with the Irish Times: “I justify everything that I did in the Troubles, and I have to do that to stay sane.” That, at least, comes close to an honest analysis of his own thought processes. But the wider question is: who in society pays the price for the preservation of Hutchinson’s sanity?

The UVF and UDA are still active in criminality in Northern Ireland. The PUP, however, is a very small player on Northern Ireland’s political scene: it currently has some councillors — of whom Hutchinson is one — but no representatives in the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly. The same cannot be said of Sinn FĂ©in, the party linked to the Provisional IRA, which has seven MPs in the UK House of Commons (from which it abstains), 27 seats in the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly, and 37 seats in DĂĄil Éireann in Dublin. Indeed, the runaway success of the party in February’s general election in the Republic of Ireland — backed by many young voters, in particular — came as something of a shock to the Irish political establishment.

Once, voters in the Republic of Ireland were largely repelled by the party’s links to extreme violence. Today, many appear unbothered by that dark history, or might even consider that it adds a touch of radical spice to an otherwise bland democratic soup. That fresh acceptance has been enabled by a narrative — energetically propagated by Sinn FĂ©in itself — which attempts to distance itself from the grotesque detail of IRA violence while simultaneously celebrating an airbrushed version of “the armed struggle”.

Although the image that Sinn FĂ©in broadly chooses to project under its leader Mary Lou McDonald is that of a modern Left-wing, progressive party, campaigning on housing and healthcare,it occasionally flashes naked pride in its IRA past — as in February when David Cullinane shouted “Up The ‘Ra!” to celebrate his election as a Sinn FĂ©in TD, or again last week when Brian Stanley, another Sinn FĂ©in TD, tweeted gloatingly that the 1979 “narrow water” incident had taught the British “the cost of occupying Ireland”.

Stanley was referring to an attack on Warrenpoint by the IRA’s South Armagh brigade in which 18 British soldiers were killed, and over 20 injured. It took place on the very same day that the IRA blew up Lord Mountbatten’s fishing boat, killing him along with his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas, the 83-year-old Dowager Lady Brabourne, and a 15-year-old schoolboy called Paul Maxwell who was working as a “boat boy” for the summer.

The deaths of two elderly people and two teenage boys that day were presumably also intended to school the British in — to borrow Stanley’s parlance — “the cost of occupying Ireland”. Like the soldiers at Warrenpoint, the small party on the boat fell under the IRA’s broad definition of “legitimate targets”, and their deaths would have been greeted with glee.

The collective memory of Ireland, North and South, is in the throes of an ongoing struggle between actual human experience, factual truth and political propaganda for dominance, in which great swathes of human experience and factual truth are being routinely downgraded, dismissed, insulted or selectively interpreted. That is where the role of the scrupulous historian becomes of great and immediate importance. The book Lost Lives, for example, an authoritative compendium of Troubles-related deaths, has long been considered an invaluable chronicle of the reality of that bleak time. Each individual’s death is accompanied by a short factual account which tells its own heart-breaking story. Neither the IRA nor the loyalist paramilitaries come out of it well.

Another important contribution to Troubles history has just been published, this time by Liam Kennedy, an emeritus professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast. It bears the title Who Was Responsible For The Troubles? — a bold choice, since such a question presses directly on the inflamed nerve-endings of historical sensitivities, and has the potential to kick off the debating equivalent of a dust-up in a Belfast bar. Yet Kennedy — a Tipperary-born long-time resident in Belfast, who intimately understands the psychology of both North and South — goes through “the parade of candidates” with an admirable and forensic calm, painstakingly assembling the relevant facts and weighing the role of “both state and non-state actors”.

Much of this is directly relevant to Sinn FĂ©in’s current attitude to the IRA’s past violence — which seems, in its carefully calibrated mixture of dogged justification and fuzzy regret, very similar to Billy Hutchinson’s attitude to UVF killing.

Earlier this year, Mary Lou McDonald said of the IRA campaign, “I wish it hadn’t happened, but it was a justified campaign,” going on to describe it as “utterly inevitable”. As the years have gone by, and its electoral base in the Republic of Ireland has grown, Sinn FĂ©in’s retrospective justification for past IRA activity has changed emphasis. Where once it was broadly accepted — including by Sinn FĂ©in — that the IRA waged its armed campaign in order to bring about a United Ireland by force, the party now prefers to depict the brutal campaign as an unavoidable historical necessity in the fight for basic civil rights and freedoms for Catholics in Northern Ireland. This canny, if bogus, alteration serves two purposes: it is infinitely more palatable to a modern audience, and it also permits the party to slide past the uncomfortable fact that after a long and bloody conflict a united Ireland has not yet been achieved.

Kennedy’s book debunks that interpretation, although it does not gloss over Protestant sectarian bigotry and violence, disastrous early mistakes of the British Army, or the shortcomings of the Unionist-controlled Stormont government from 1922 to 1972. But he argues that significant changes were already well underway by the late 1960s, including “electoral reform, changes to policing, and reform of housing”. In a survey of popular opinion in the spring and summer of 1968, 65% of Catholics thought that relations between Catholics and Protestants were better than five years earlier.

The clear policy goal of the nascent Provisional IRA was a united Ireland won by force, he says, just as the Sinn FĂ©in newspaper An Phoblacht vowed in February 1970: “We will erect the Irish Republic again in all its glory no matter what it costs.” The author’s contention is that the Provisional IRA’s long-term motivation was very far indeed from a civil rights agenda, not least when one considers the high numbers of Catholics that it killed and maimed in Northern Ireland. Indeed, he considers PIRA to have been the primary engine of the Troubles.

His view is supported elsewhere by a source somewhat closer to the republican heartland — Kevin Hannaway, a republican dissident who also happens to be Gerry Adams’ cousin, who remarked not long ago of contemporary Sinn FĂ©in, “If they were out for an Irish Republic they failed. If they were out for civil rights they got it in 1973. So what the fucking hell was the other 30 years of war for?”

In recent years, however, Sinn FĂ©in has been extremely vocal on the case of Pat Finucane, a Northern Ireland criminal defence lawyer who was murdered by loyalist UDA gunmen in 1989 as he ate Sunday dinner with his family. Ken Barrett, a UDA member, was later convicted of his murder. An independent 2012 review of the case found evidence of collusion between Finucane’s killers and elements in the Royal Ulster Constabulary — for which David Cameron subsequently apologised — but “no over-arching state conspiracy”. Last week, the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis ruled out the full public inquiry demanded by the Finucane family – although he kept the door open for one in the future. This decision met with widespread outrage, including from the Taoiseach MichĂ©al Martin and Amnesty International.

It is justifiable and understandable that Pat Finucane’s family should seek information on his appalling murder. Historic state collusion with paramilitaries in Northern Ireland should be held to account where it exists. What is not justifiable is Sinn FĂ©in’s own refusal either to express any genuine regret or disclose information on the murders of lawyers and judges by the IRA, of which there were very many: among them Edgar Graham, a young Unionist law lecturer gunned down outside Queen’s University; William Doyle, a Catholic judge shot dead as he left Sunday Mass; Rory Conaghan, a Catholic judge murdered in front of his young daughter; and Martin McBirney, a left-leaning magistrate, civil rights campaigner and literary figure who was shot dead in his family home at breakfast.

Sinn FĂ©in is no longer a movement outside the state: it has long been part of the government in Northern Ireland, and it is actively seeking to become the government in the Republic. For how long can it argue its own right to repress and deny “legacy” information on the murder of citizens in Northern Ireland?

It is hard now, perhaps, to convey the impact of what families bereaved by paramilitary murders went through at the time of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. They had to accept that the killers of their loved ones would gain early release under its terms; in one instance, the parents of Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, the last soldier killed in the Troubles, had to witness their son’s killer, Bernard McGinn, laughing as he was sentenced to 490 years in prison for offences that also included making the Docklands Bomb, knowing he would be free in 16 months. Many of them accepted this because they believed it would bring an end to the sectarian killing that had destroyed their own families — and to a large extent it did.

Very few, however, had fully anticipated the degree to which former paramilitaries and their vocal supporters would come to dominate the political narrative in post-Agreement Ireland, whether in terms of media coverage or electoral success. The emotional comfort of former paramilitaries has been broadly indulged and preserved at the expense of those their organisations have bereaved.

Many of the bereaved have now taken refuge in privacy and silence. Some speak out from within victims’ groups or are active online, bringing their stories of loss to a wider audience. On platforms such as Twitter, I have seen a measure of the online abuse endured by courageous campaigners such as Ann Travers, whose 22-year-old sister Mary, a primary school teacher, was shot dead by the IRA during a 1984 attempt to murder her father, the judge Thomas Travers, as the family walked home from Mass. The icy statement from the Sinn FĂ©in spokesman Danny Morrison at the time was that “Miss Travers’ death was regrettable but understandable as her father was a member of the British judiciary.” The party does not seem to have shifted fundamentally in its thinking since.

That chilling “regrettable but understandable” over a young woman’s murder back in 1984 sits very close to Mary Lou McDonald’s “I wish it hadn’t happened, but it was a justified campaign” in 2020. Or, indeed, Billy Hutchinson’s remark, “I justify everything that I did in the Troubles”. Yet any credible way forward for Ireland, North and South, must surely involve a genuine manifestation of respect for all those who lost their lives.

And if Britain is to re-examine the points where intelligence-gathering operations veered into criminal collusion, as it should, then the Republic of Ireland might also reflect on the degree of popular sympathy for the IRA in that jurisdiction, and the extent to which that funded and fuelled the murderous conflict in the North – a theme examined in a new book, A Broad Church by Gearóid Ó Faoleán.

Acknowledging and owning uncomfortable truths in history is a complicated and painful path for all parties, and so it should be. The best historians recognise this, I think, but the electorate now seems increasingly disinclined to do so. Much of Northern Ireland remains sharply divided among sectarian lines. Both there, and certainly in the Republic of Ireland, there is a resurgent, simplistic and deeply polarising IRA triumphalism, which many among the younger generation — who never lived through the raw misery of the Troubles — are finding quite an intoxicating brew. It must feel a bit exciting to them, I suppose. It doesn’t bode well.


Jenny McCartney is a journalist, commentator and author of the novel The Ghost Factory.

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Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago

Historians should warn us of the predictable outcome of an armistice as opposed to the total defeat of an enemy. The Belfast Agreement (or Good Friday Agreement) was essentially an armistice which made too many concessions to the Republicans and in the process drawing a veil over their murderous past. Hardly surprising that they now appeal to a new generation all to ready to fawn over just about any posturing rebel.

A subject of discussion (now forgotten) in the two or three years prior to the signing of that controversial agreement was the possibility that the IRA was close to defeat if the British government had not held back.

While we are disussing due apologies does anyone recall an apology for the contribution made by Michael Flannery’s NORAID? After all, the Americans are deeply opposed to terrorism ““ aren’t they?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Ha ha – the Americans are always opposed to terrorism unless the IRA or the CIA are behind it.

That aside, I broadly agree with your post although I’m not sure how the British government or any other government can ‘defeat’ a belief such as that espoused by the IRA. And the belief in a united Ireland is perfectly legitimate in my view, although I detested the IRA’s methods.

Funnily enough I am currently reading Anna Burns’ ‘Milkman’ which is set in Belfast in the late 70s. To simplify greatly, it explores the psychological and physical pressures exerted by the IRA/republicans on the local community, and particularly on the 18 year old first person narrator.

Assuming the IRA’s techniques as featured n the book are rooted in truth, ‘Milkman’ works as a sort of imaginative documentary. And it does so in a voice that is compelling and unique. Unusually for a Booker winner, it is an outstandingly good book and I would recommend it to anyone.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

That’s the second time you’ve posted a recommendation for Anna Burns’ “Milkman”. Could this be more than just a bit of book club enthusiasm?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Not really, and it takes a lot for me to be enthusiastic about a contemporary novel, most of which I find to be nonsense. Indeed, I can only think of three contemporary British novels of the last 20 years that I would recommend: ‘Brick Lane’, ‘Vernon God Little’ and ‘Milkman’.

And believe me, I didn’t WANT to like ‘Milkman’. It was, to some extent, foisted on me by a leftie female friend who thinks Corbyn is the greatest genius the world has ever seen, and who believes Gerry Adams to be saint. So I was very suspicious, very suspicious, especially as it was a Booker winner by someone who ticked all the boxes.

For context, I typically read about 20 novels a year and 50 or so works of non-fiction.

Linda Ethell
Linda Ethell
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Milkman reveals the cost to an individual living in N.Ireland. I went on to read The Psalm Killers by Chris Petit (?) which is horrifyingly informative of the mixed motives of both sides. It’s worth persevering through the shocking violence of the story to understand something of the political manoeuvrings of the various institutions involved. The movie Cal seen many years ago also springs to mind.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

a new generation all to ready to fawn over just about any posturing rebel

Yes this completely. Although I would argue it’s not that new. Look at the idolisation of Che Guevara and the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War tp name two examples. It’s definitely become more common though. Think in popular culture how the little guy, underdog etc is nearly always the hero in a lot of stories. Even Batman has come under criticism for not following this pattern.

It seems as though a healthy scepticism of authority has been taken to extremes, allied to a natural tendency of people to support an underdog. We see it in the proliferation of conspiracy theories too as a side symptom.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

You’re right. Adoration of the rebel has a long history. I think it would be fair to say that it really took off in the Romatic era when the idea of being at odds with society carried with the prospect of a kind of spiritual heroism. Take it to its logical conclusion and you run the of risk admiring criminals as anti-heroes.

Anyway, think of the hugely popular modern day epic, Star Wars ““ a space opera (can’t really call it science fiction) about a plucky band of rebels engaged in a perpetual struggle against the evil and oppressive empire. Under the hi-tec flash it’s the same old well-worn, and juvenile, story.

It would be good, if only for a change, to have a less half-baked view of future interstellar empires. It’s not impossible ““ Asimov, Ian M Banks and Robert Heinlein managed to take an alternative, more intelligent view.

James Joyce
James Joyce
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Look at the idolisation of Che Guevara and the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War

The Republicans supported the democratically elected government: it was the Loyalists who were the rebels.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

The IRA might have been defeated militarily. However, it would not have been eradicated. Many of the people who launched the IRA in the 1960s and early 1970s were the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of members of the IRA in the 1920s. The IRA would have arisen again. Especially following the repression by the British Army required to defeat the IRA completely.

The Belfast Agreement was not just a matter of internal UK politics. It was also aimed at maintaining the agreement between London and Dublin that violence should not be used to determine Irish politics. In 1998, the British could call on the support of over 90% of Irish citizens in this matter. That support would have declined had the British rejected the chance of a peace agreement and possibly reignited the conflict.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago

I do believe that the Belfast agreement was a tentative step toward getting rid of The Troubles (awful euphemism) by ultimately getting rid of Ulster. The IRA created a painful problem the British would gladly rid themselves of if, in good conscience, they could turn their backs on the Ulster protestant community.

Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson
3 years ago

During the NI Troubles, target identification for the IRA was relatively easy. Many of the targets wore uniforms! For loyalists “responding” to IRA attacks, it wasn’t so straightforward. So they assassinated random Catholics, as per Billy Hutchinson’s attack above. Then claimed that the victims were activists of some kind.

It was infuriating for many of the bereft to hear in the media their lost loved one labelled an IRA volunteer or sympathiser, knowing very well that he was not.

christopherowens1986
christopherowens1986
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Wilson

Plus loyalists were not averse to taking help from members of the security forces (i.e. the forces of law and order) on occasion. Which often gets overlooked by mainstream commentators who wish to draw a veil over state violence.

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago

And Republicans were not averse to taking help from Southern Ireland , the priesthood , the US , Libya and the Soviet Bloc .

christopherowens1986
christopherowens1986
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Healy

Nice try, but there’s a big difference between getting weapons and funding from other countries, and members of the security forces (the supposed “thin blue line”) passing over files to loyalist paramilitaries to ensure they are murdered.

John Mcalester
John Mcalester
3 years ago

The utter tragedy of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland is exacerbated by the fact that the IRA campaign murdered thousands of innocent men, women and children for no reason whatsoever as their actions not only failed to achieve their objectives but created an economic wasteland, stoked sectarian tensions to an intolerable level and made the chances of a united Ireland being achieved much more difficult. For all the death and destruction on both sides they achieved absolutely nothing. But Sinn Fein will never admit this.

Alan Fitzgibbon
Alan Fitzgibbon
3 years ago

The Sinn Fein tweet on the Warrenpoint attack was combined with a reference to the Kilmichael 1920 ambush which also killed 18 British soldiers. The Irish Republic was created out of a violent struggle (now seen as legitimate) – when Fianna FÃ¥il finally entered the DÃ¥il in 1932 they were armed. Hence the difficulty of establishment politicians (esp. FF) putting clear water between their legacy and that of SinnFein.

Miriam UĂ­
Miriam UĂ­
3 years ago

I think they are doing it now as Sinn Féin become a real threat.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

I think you will find it was not technically British soldiers who were killed in the Kilmichael Ambush but the far more ferocious ” Auxies”, or correctly members of the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Recruited exclusively was former British Army officers, they made their compatriots in the Black and Tans look like children.

However at Kilmichael, a combination of slovenliness, and arrogance ensured they literally drove heedlessly into the ambush site. Wasn’t it also 17 killed outright and one wounded, hunted down and killed sometime later?

Tom Barry was the IRA Commander, “Kennybhoy” take note.

Miriam UĂ­
Miriam UĂ­
3 years ago

Thank you for this well balanced and nuanced article. The lack of repentance for past crimes, and their glorification is the source of much distress to people on all sides. Sinn Féin are still aiming for a united Ireland but with little or no understanding of what radical humility that would require to avoid another civil war. If only key figures, such as Mary Lou, could say sorry and make restitution for the crimes of the past.

christopherowens1986
christopherowens1986
3 years ago

As Anthony McIntyre says:

“The narrative that launched them (Sinn Fein) as a party has become an embarrassment to them and they see it as a hindrance to their political careers. Fianna Fail can at least stand over the war that launched them.”

l.kennedy
l.kennedy
3 years ago

Jenny’s article is beautifully written and argued. (I confess an interest, as she cites me.) Her work is also distinguished by its sensitivity and fairmindedness: state violations of people’s rights, as well as those by loyalist and republican paramilitary groups are found to be equally repellent. As a ‘southerner’, I find her analysis of the appeal of Sinn Féin to younger voters in the Republic compelling. I felt the same excitement in 1969 when I joined the Irish Labour Party. But there the comparison ends. The Labour Party was a democratic organisation, committed to reform. It did not rejoice, as Fergal Keane so memorably put it, with those who celebrated the killing of their fellow men and women. It is a melancholy fact that more than 80% of those who died due to political violence during the Troubles were Irish-born.

Miriam UĂ­
Miriam UĂ­
3 years ago
Reply to  l.kennedy

Last year I spoke to a young Dubliner on a flight, really excited about the prospect of a United Ireland. Thrilled it would mean the end of the Orange Order marching season. I proposed that unless we fund those marches as part of our culture, as is done in Derry for example, there will be no unity. Very few are really thinking through what unity means. It would neccesitate the end of the Republic as we know it. And a lot of truth and humility.

James Joyce
James Joyce
3 years ago

A necessary article. Though the ‘scrupulous’ and honest approach to all parties is undermined by qualifying British army (including the UDR) killings/maimings as “mistakes” – and even then only applicable to the “early” part of the conflict.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

02/17/78
“Many dead were children”
children of legacy”Š
a bomb blew death
through life in Belfast
Yeats in agony-
and still
past half a century”Š
“a terrible beauty”
Is born in blood
and beasts
slouch in the shadows
in Irish eyes”Š

Charles Rense
Charles Rense
3 years ago

I think the trick to avoiding or getting out of a perpetual cycle of sectarian violence is to let historical crimes and injustices go.

One or both parties may be entitled to apologies. But pressing them for one only feeds the resentment, and risks reigniting the violence.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

The paramilitaries are taking their lead from the British Government in refusing to acknowledge their crimes. The British Army supplied loyalist paramilitaries with the information required for the paramilitaries to do their dirty work and murder IRA members. And others.

Also being forgotten is that IRA/SinnFein considered the Dublin Parliament and the Dublin Government as illegitimate. The aim of IRA/SInnFein was not just to unite Ireland but then to overthrow the democratically elected Government in Dublin. That was why Sinn Fein was unable to win any seats in the Dail between 1961 and 1997. Also not mentioned is that Sinn Fein is now getting support due to the corruption of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and their indifference to poverty in Ireland.

‘Kevin Hannaway, … remarked not long ago of contemporary Sinn Féin, “If they were out for an Irish Republic they failed. If they were out for civil rights they got it in 1973. So what the f*****g hell was the other 30 years of war for?” ‘ Do the maths! That makes 2003 and not 1998. Hannaway is perhaps referring to the fact that the IRA maintained their weapons until the US Government started to play hard ball after 9/11 and the IRA made the mistake of stealing too much money in the Northern Bank robbery in 2004

https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago

While South Africa is not a model state, the truth and reconciliation process that they went through is interesting and might be worth considering in Ireland.

caro
caro
3 years ago

BBC2 ran a 3 part series called “Facing the truth” in 2006 (I think you can find episodes on YouTube) with Archbishop Tutu mediating in a similar way to the Truth and Recociliation Commission between families of the bereaved and the terrorist who was responsible. IIRC as it is a long time ago, most of the families forgave the killer but the killers still maintained that whilst they regretted what happened it “was a legitimate war” or maintained they weren’t directly involved.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago

It’s naive to think either side will apologise. Can the historians cite any case where apologies have been exchanged after a violent conflict? Especially where the one side which initiated the violence was found to be blatantly in the wrong……. Blair’s invasion of Iraq.

jameswpemberton
jameswpemberton
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding
Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

What a splendid caption photograph! Well done indeed, yet again, UnHerd.

The synthetic grief is pure nectar!
What a squalid little war that was, yet even now we mythologise it as ” the troubles”, what utter nonsense.

Off course ‘we’ could never win with the USA and Noraid on our backs from day one.

For the US, both Ireland and Israel are sacrosanct, and any skulduggery is justified. In Israel’s case this a strategic imperative, but in Ireland’s case it is emotional tosh.

The best solution now, would be to rid ourselves of this pestilential hell hole and left them fight it out between themselves.

After 800 years it’s time to move on.

Conall
Conall
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Jenny McCartney’s lecture to the Irish is highly arrogant and misplaced. She would be seen as much more honest if she devoted some of her energy to examining Britain’s role in Ireland and in other countries over the long centuries. But of course, none of that is covered in Britain’ education system, leaving ordinary Brits totally ignorant of Britain’s overseas history, and indeed of overseas politics.
Ireland endured centuries of imperialism, colonialism, and downright savagery and murder from Britain, including: stealing our land, banning of Catholicism, drawing and quartering of priests and disembowelment of them whilst still conscious; including banning of our native language, Irish, in the education system, with schoolkids having to wear wooden necklaces that would be scored by ‘teachers’ every time they spoke their native language, Irish, at school, with punishment meted out when the scoring reached a certain level; including absentee British landlords who charged huge rents for leasing land back to the Irish – land that had been stolen from them earlier in Cromwellian and other conquests. By the 17th century, most Irish land ended up in British and Protestant ownership.
The descendants of British landlords still retain permanent hunting-‘rights’ over much of private land in rural Ireland, and own the fishing ‘rights’ in most Irish rivers.
During Ireland’s Great Famine in the 1840s, into the early 1850s, loads of Irish-produced food was exported out of Ireland, protected by British Regiments, whilst most of Ireland starved. The hunger was so bad that parents began to eat their own dead children, as has been acknowledged by historians in a recent national television programme about the Famine. A million Irish people died in that famine. The terror of not having enough to eat still haunts parts of Ireland.
Of course, Britain was involved in its overseas ‘adventures’ in Africa, India, and many other countries, where they murdered, looted and pillaged, and reduced the natives to slavery. Britain is still at it in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their ‘heroic Special Forces’ are active in many other countries, while MI6 grossly and clandestinely interferes in politics in several countries, including the Republic of Ireland. I wonder what the death-toll of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is. Probably millions. The national electricity-system, the national water-system, and hospitals were bombed to rubble by Allied Forces, and the countries reduced to Third-World standards. How many children have died because of the medical-system being destroyed? It probably runs into millions.
But of course the Brits, having centuries of experience of interference in other countries’ affairs, have a great system in place to keep their own people ignorant of their overseas atrocities ““ just like the US.
The military in Britain is seen generally at home as honourable, law-abiding gentlemen bringing ‘democracy’ and ‘civilization’ to others, worthy of the highest respect, and closely linked to the Royal Family. The BBC and ‘Independent’ TV and mindless paper media of course play a very important part in maintaining the myth, and hiding the truth of these gentlemen’s behaviour overseas from the general public. Extremely rarely is British military behaviour questioned or examined in the media. ‘Our boys shooting or torturing civilians? What downright terrorist piffle!’ Popular cinema like James Bond does its bit to enforce this; Bond – the gentleman – roams here and there on His Majesty’s Service, culling ‘bad guys’ who threaten the British way of life. His equivalent in real life wouldn’t harm a fly, now would he? US intellectual Noam Chomsky explains in detail how media thought-control works in his book ‘Manufacturing Consent’.
When Islam, for example, hits back after witnessing British atrocities in their own countries, the media hysterically obsesses with ‘mad’ mullahs who ‘radicalise’ their easily-led followers. There might be a more obvious reason!
By the late 1960s, Catholics/Nationalists in Northern Ireland had just about enough of being third-class citizens under the jackboot of fundamentalist Protestantism – and their private Protestant B-Specials army (later the UDR) – who gerrymandered electoral areas to deny Nationalist representation, denied them houses, jobs, their Irishness, terrorised Catholics at armed roadblocks, etc., etc. A new era of Civil Rights was sweeping across the world. Catholics/Nationalists reacted to being oppressed, and it would seem, centuries of understandable frustration and anger exploded.
In 2005, the Irish Republican Army publicly apologised for civilian casualties during their armed campaign. They apologised more than once. Of course, as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the IRA had to surrender their arms, whilst the good old sectarian, bigoted, KKK, Catholic-hating Orange Order was allowed to carry on as normal with its private system of denying Catholics jobs, and marching in supremacist fashion through Nationalist areas.
The Northern Ireland state never apologised to Catholics/Nationalists for centuries of violence inflicted upon them, for stealing their land, or the denial of basic rights to them. I firmly believe that if the Northern Irish State had treated Nationalists as equal citizens, there would have been no armed conflict, and little resistance to the state.
Maybe it is time for an apology from the British Government for its murder and savagery in Ireland (and in innumerable other countries), including to the present day.
I won’t hold my breath!