Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Samuel Morrison: Republicans would have us believe we didn't have terrorism but rather endured a conflict

TUV press officer says term 'conflict' implies that "everyone was equally culpable in Northern Ireland"

Martin McGuinness speaking during the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace event in Warrington earlier this month
Martin McGuinness speaking during the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace event in Warrington earlier this month

Earlier this month 92-year-old former SS officer Siert Bruins appeared in court accused of shooting a resistance fighter four times in the back in 1944.

Imagine the outcry if this resulted in anyone suggesting that a former diplomat from the US should be flown in to discuss how Germany might deal with 'the past'.

In fact, the very idea that people would seek to sanitize events in Europe in the 1940s by using phrases like 'the past', 'combatants' and 'the conflict' would be abhorrent to all right thinking people.

Imagine if people attempted to suggest that the innocent victims who were herded into the gas chambers were no different from the German soldiers who died during the uprising of Jews at Auschwitz.

Yet Republicans are seeking to do something similar in Northern Ireland. They would have us believe that we didn’t go through 30 years of terrorism but rather we endured a 'conflict'.

It’s a term which implies that everyone was equally culpable in Northern Ireland. It glosses over the reality of the firebombing of a hotel, the bombing of a Remembrance Sunday service and a gun attack on a Protestant place of worship.

It implies that the torturing and killing of people with knives, cleavers and axes simply because they were Roman Catholics and the bombing of pubs because they were believed to have a predominately nationalist clientele was part of some 'conflict' rather than terrorism.

The existence of justice is a fundamental in any society and dealing with criminality shouldn’t be a matter for talks with Richard Haass or anyone else. It should be a matter for the courts.

But in Northern Ireland those who inflicted so much pain and suffering on our society are given a seat at the table (or rather several seats) when these matters are treated as part of the political process.

That’s not to say that victims can have no impact on the political process. In recent days the courageous stand of Ann Travers lead to the successful passage of Ann’s Law. More recently, the united stand of innocent victims was a major contributing factor to the co-First Minister’s U-turn on the Maze.

Interestingly though in both cases innocent victims had to shout very loudly in order to be noticed at all and encountered serious political opposition to their stand. Ironically Martin McGuinness recently claimed they had been “used” by politicians.

Tellingly in all of the media commentary no one made the simple point that McGuinness was  a self-confessed commander in the organisation which created thousands of victims in order to achieve the his political objectives.

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