Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Lindy McDowell: How one little boy sums up anger at bomber’s release

Lindy McDowell, Belfast Telegraph

The New York Post (granted, a publication not noted for its bleeding heart, leftie leanings) has featured in recent days a political cartoon which shows that iconic image of the mangled nose of Pan Am flight 103.

In this cartoon, a small figure is seen emerging from the wreckage, dressed in prison stripes with the word Bomber emblazoned on the back.

He is whistling a merry tune as he makes good his escape.

“At least somebody got out alive”, reads the speech bubble above his head.

The same paper carries an opinion piece by a gentleman called Brian Flynn which begins with the words: “Scot free! Outrageous!”

Mr Flynn records a conversation he had with his six-year-old son, Bo, about the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi.

When little Bo opined that the bomber should be kept locked up until he died, his father explained that this would not now happen.

Then, said the child: “He should be killed. He should be shot in the heart.”

If that sounds like extreme language from a child, it may be because young Bo already has strong views on al Megrahi and what he did.

Among the 270 victims of Lockerbie atrocity was 21-year-old JP Flynn, one of a large number of American students killed.

JP was the brother of Bo’s father. He was the uncle the child never knew.

In America, Bo’s comments about the Lockerbie mass murderer pretty much sum up how many people feel. Their ferocity and directness may raise European eyebrows.

But America (and I know it is tricky and unfair to generalise) tends to have a less compromising attitude to terrorism, crime and punishment — at least where American citizens are involved.

Considerable anger is being expressed in the US media at the release of al Megrahi.

Considerable anger is also being expressed about those |follow-up salt-in-the-wound scenes of the Lockerbie bomber’s hero’s reception when he landed back in Tripoli.

It would be fair to say that right now tartan is not exactly topping the popularity charts in the States.

Where many are concerned that glowing endorsement of “courageous” Gordon Brown from mad Gaddafi just about takes the haggis.

An indication of this backlash against Britain in general and Scotland in particular is that, in an echo of the days when French Fries were dubbed Freedom Fries, there is even talk of a boycott of Scotch whiskey.

The argument that the Scottish legal system has shown compassion is taken apart in letters columns and phone-in shows.

Brian Flynn points to the fact that other criminals have been allowed to die in Scottish jails.

Significantly he also makes clear that he himself has campaigned against capital punishment for many years.

But now, he adds, when his small son says the man who murdered his brother should be “shot in the heart” it’s hard to argue.

It is hard to argue with someone who speaks from such brutal experience.

The Scottish administration which plays the “compassionate” card may claim that it tak’s the moral high road while others tak’ the low road.

But from the perspective of grieving relatives it seems very much the other way round.

Which is why the ongoing debate about the release of the Lockerbie bomber is not actually a debate about the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

It’s a debate about attitudes to terrorism and the inconsistency thereof.

America these days deports Maze escaper Pol Brennan in shackles — a pretty robust sign that the Obama administration rejects the freedom fighter stuff.

But it was money from America which fuelled and sustained Northern Ireland’s Troubles in the past. American dollars bought a fair few local Lockerbies

The British Government/Scottish ministers, meanwhile, talk about being compassionate.

But the claim is they have released a mass murderer for political expediency and commercial gain. Not an all-round picture of integrity and principle then on both sides of the Atlantic.

In terms of political reputation, nobody gets out of this one.

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