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Apr 142014
 

It’s a bit ridiculous to compare the two, but if you look at the number of casualties involved, the 9/11 terrorist incident which caused around 2,900 casualties is very roughly comparable in size to The Troubles (with some 3,500 casualties). Of course the troubles consisted of many small incidents over a period of 30-odd years.

During that time, one of the IRA‘s (the “Official IRA”, the “Provisional IRA” and the INLA) principle source of funds were the groups NORAID and Clan na Gael. Which were based in the USA, and raised funds from supporters in the USA.

Or in other words, some US citizens were helping to fund a 9/11.

What’s more anyone who reads the history of the IRA is made very aware that the IRA regarded the US as a safe haven for their “soldiers”.

It’s interesting to contemplate using some the war on terror’s weapons against some US citizens :-

  • Extra-ordinary rendition of US citizens to concentration camps excluded from the protection of the law – so they could be tortured.
  • Freezing of the assets of some US citizens suspected of helping to fund terrorism.

It is perhaps a useful tool to consider whether certain counter-terrorism tactics are a step too far.

 

Jan 282009
 

Today the conflict in Northern Ireland has appeared in the news again. Fortunately this time the conflict was no more than angry words, but it shows that the “troubles” are not quite over yet. The news that sparked this conflict? The announcement that all the families who lost a member during the troubles would receive £12,000 as some sort of gesture (they avoid the word “compensation”).

The problem with this is that this package includes those families who lost a member who was a terrorist “killed in action” as it were – for example the family of an IRA bomber killed by his own bomb would receive this gesture. It is hardly surprising that this is somewhat less than those who feel they are genuine victims of terrorism.

Those who came up with this idea need to have their heads examined. Perhaps their hearts were in the right place, but they should have known that this proposal would never have been popular. The family of that IRA bomber mentioned earlier (and the equivalent families of Unionist terrorists) are victims of terrorism as much as the other families, although I very much doubt I would get much agreement from the other families.

Why?

First of all the family of a terrorist is not responsible for the actions of the terrorist, and they will suffer the normal effects of grief when that terrorist is killed. In a society where that terrorist did not feel the need to go out and murder people to make a point, the family would still have that member of their family.

Does it sound like I am blaming society for turning ordinary angry young men (and women) into terrorists ? Yes to an extent.

A normal healthy society does not turn a significant number of angry young men into terrorists. They may well go on protests, throw bricks through windows, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. They will not go out and plant bombs, and shoot people.

Any society that does turn a significant number of angry young men into terrorists is sick in some way.

That does not mean that the terrorist is innocent of the crimes they commit – anyone who bombs, or shoots in an attempt to achieve a political end is in the wrong.

But any society that is sick needs a tonic.

May 032007
 

The UVF made a little announcement today, saying that they’ve put violence behind them and their arms are “out of reach” … whatever that phrase is supposed to mean. This is of course great news after all the UVF is one of the organisations that began with the “troubles” in Northern Ireland/6 counties. And from the beginning they were one of the most violent … the first killing of a policeman was them, and they gloried in sectarian killings far more than most paramilitary organisations.

But there is one thing that has always puzzled me about the peace process in NI. Whilst the IRA was still armed, all the pressure on disarmament was directed towards them with only occasional mention of organisations such as the UVF. It seemed very one-sided especially when you consider the origins of the “troubles” where peaceful protests by catholics was met with increasing violence by “loyalists” (I’ve always hated that description). It is easy to forget that British troops were first sent to NI to protect the catholic community.

Anyone who knows the history of the IRA knows that after the border wars of the late 1950s/early 1960s, they had stopped using violence and were interested to see what the independent peaceful protests about the atrocious treatment of the catholic community could achieve. The loyalists claim that these protests were wholly controlled by the IRA … not so! Sure there were IRA members who took part … as (mostly) catholics themselves they had some interest in seeing the aims of the protest movement succeed, but it was never an IRA cover organisation.

So why were the loyalist paramilitaries treated so leniently by the peace process ? Why were the loyalist politicians allowed a voice when the republican politicians gagged ? Well, part of it is because the loyalists politicians managed to maintain a better illusion of distance between themselves and the paramilitaries … I guess you could say they were better politicians. And perhaps the British and Irish governments took the rantings of a certain loud and vile politician too seriously.

The peace process tends to give the impression that the republicans were more responsible for the troubles than the loyalists. They are certainly not without fault, but hopefully history will spread the blame more evenly.

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