Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

How dare killers blame victims for threatening peace

Ann Travers

It really is very simple. If a paedophile with a criminal record (or without one) was appointed as a Special Adviser (or Spad) to a government minister, the difficulties of that would be easily visible.

And even if the policy of the government was to accustomise the population to the habits of that crime or, simply, to use such appointments to help paedophiles see the error of their ways, the issue would still be simple.

As the paedophile's victims protested, public sympathy would rightly recognise the wrongness of the appointment and the system which could allow it to happen.

Victims wouldn't be told to shut up and move on from their abuse; they wouldn't be regarded as social pariahs; they wouldn't be seen as obstacles to rehabilitation. The issues would be as clear then as they are now when the issue isn't paedophilia but old-fashioned murder.

Well, no they wouldn't really. Like Nick Ross's twisty-turny gradations of rape, murder has its own myriad of versions and perceptions, equally despicable and equally opportunistic.

Ann Travers' campaign against the recruitment of ex-prisoners as Spads has brought amazing opprobrium on her head. She's accused of hounding people, refusing to forgive and forget, impeding the peace process, being a backward-looker, vindictive and quite an unpleasant, mouthy individual.

And all she did was be the sister of a girl murdered by the IRA. Somehow, that was Ann Travers' fault. Yes, if they must, perpetrators of murder will put on solemn faces in the name of peace and say words like 'tragic' and 'mistake' and pretend that those have the same meaning as the words 'appalling' and 'despicable'. But there was nothing 'tragic' about Mary Travers' murder. 'Tragic' is a landslide, a car accident, a tumour. 'Tragic' isn't a masked gunman firing a pistol into your back when you're a teacher leaving Mass.

That's murder. And the appointment which drew attention to the distasteful behaviour of politicians in their choice of Spads was the elevation of Mary McArdle as a Spad to Caral Ni Chuilin, Minister for Culture, Arts & Leisure. McArdle had served time for the murder of Mary Travers.

There's been accusations of Ann Travers vindictively hounding people out of jobs. But, of course, these Spads aren't actually in 'jobs' at all. They aren't appointed, they're anointed. They aren't interviewed in competition with others, the posts aren't advertised, the remuneration isn't in line with a marketplace ...

No. They are simply lifted out of the dark mass of party-political humanity and set up with a monthly brown envelope stuffed with fivers supplied by you and me. And, in Mary McArdle's case, from the tax pounds of Ann Travers and her family also.

Meanwhile, none of those responsible for the embarrassingly many unsolved murders in Northern Ireland have stepped forward 'in the spirit of the peace process' to take ownership of the 'revolutionary' or 'defensive' deeds which resulted in the deaths of so many of our population. Not one has rushed forward to raise their hands to say 'Remember that postman gunned down on his rounds because he was a part-time UDR soldier? I was hiding behind the hedge with a gun that morning, so I was'; or 'Remember that taxi-driver called on a job to a loyalist area and shot in the back of the head by his passenger? That was me, so it was'.

Not a chance, of course. No hope of a single paramilitary stepping forward to receive the acclaim of their community for the grisly creeping slaughter for which they were responsible. Why? Even if they own up now, they'll never serve a day in jail. Why not just step forward and say: "This is what I did in the war"? Imagine the extraordinary waves of goodwill such acts would generate.

It's obvious why, of course. Because the reality of their murders is far removed from the shiny romance they've fostered for themselves over decades.

Less Rambo draped in ammunition belts, bandana and muddied fatigues and more lipstick, fright wigs and surgical stockings. Not quite the image the Hard Men have lived off in their own mythology.

Instead, though, the victims and relatives of victims are meant to keep their mouths shut. In a spectacularly grotesque twist, the killers would have it that it's their victims who are torturing them ... because, er, they're dead and their families refuse to leave it at that. How dare they! Haven't they heard that whiny refrain of the reconstructed terrorist: "Just because I've a past it doesn't mean I can't have a future." Unlike their victims obviously..

And the rest of us are meant to keep shoving those fivers at people who are not elected, who are not accountable, who are anointed like an unholy priesthood to surround our politicians with their own gang of yes-men and yes-women. And if we object to having our pockets picked, it is we, the ordinary citizens, who are regarded as the obstacle.

Funny that. It always ends up being us in the doghouse, the dock or the coffin.

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