Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is a dead terrorist a victim?

The appointment of a Victims Commissioner in Northern Ireland has made this a hot issue. As the widow of an RUC reservist murdered by the INLA, will Bertha McDougall be able to represent the families of terrorists who feel just as bereaved as she? Indeed, should she even try?

Many think not. Asked who she thinks is a victim, the sister of a murdered UDR soldier has said, "To be honest it [a victim] shouldn't be a perpetrator, someone who has taken a life". The trouble is, the families of the IRA members killed at Loughgall in 1987 also regard the SAS soldiers who killed them as perpetrators, whereas the UK government, the Unionist parties, Loyalists and a lot of others would say they were legally authorised to use lethal force against the IRA gang that was attacking the local police station.

You see, perpectives vary. To most Republicans, shooting a policeman through the head on his doorstep 6 feet away from his 5-year-old daughter is a terrible thing but a regrettably necessary act in pursuit of a united Ireland which is a goal worth more than any suffering inflicted upon him or any hardship or grief forced upon his family. To most Unionists, any death is sad, but the British Army represents the country's forces of law and order and is justified in killing terrorists about to launch an attack if it can only be thwarted that way.

For the record, my position is clear: democracies need police forces which uphold the law of the land and whose methods are approved by local bodies (that's why I criticise Sinn Féin for failing consistently in its duty to represent its voters by taking its seats on Ulster's local policing boards). A terrorist is someone who kills outside that framework. By this definition, the UDR soldiers who murdered members of the Miami showband are terrorists. Terrorism is the antithesis of democracy. It says, "I don't care what you think, you bastard, or how many thousands of soft-heads agree with you. What I want is what we're going to get".

If you hold strong political opinions of either colour, you're not going to like the next bit. Which is this: progress in Northern Ireland requires a healing of all the wounds received during the guerilla war. That matters just as much whether there's no one to take over your beloved farm or you're a bride with no one to walk you down the aisle. However good, bad or indifferent the actions of those who have died, a victim is a victim.

And as victims know, there's no such thing as semi-bereavement.


At 11:43 p.m., Blogger Chris Gaskin said...

Good post John

At 12:34 a.m., Anonymous beano said...

I totally agree that the killers of the miami showband members were terrorists because the band were innocents. The IRA 'volunteers' (attacking the police station ?) at Loughgall were not victims because they set out to make victims out of someone else.

It's not complicated, once you break the law and attempt to destroy life and/or property, you're not a victim. It's a crystal clear line and yet the government is determined to fudge it. By their definition, I'm confident that if I study the wording long enough I'll be able to prove that I too am a victim.


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