A nod and wink is not accountable democracy

In the Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole dissects the hypocrisy of the IRA’s private, and secretive, ‘investigation’ into their murder of 15-year-old Bernard Teggart 30 years ago. He contrasts Sinn Fein’s calls for public inquiries on other murders with their silence on this and concludes that, despite the spinning by the two Aherns:

The sickness that allowed the IRA to murder a mentally handicapped child in the name of Irish freedom won’t be cured until the so-called republican movement is willing to confront, in an open and democratic way, the crimes it committed. Until that happens, Sinn Féin is not fit for government.

The powerfully written piece is unflinching in its criticism:

“The Floral Hall at Belfast’s Bellevue Zoo was a particularly ironic place to dump the body of a child. But that oasis of tranquillity was where, in November 1973, a UDR patrol found Bernard Teggart with a bullet in his head and a placard, scrawled with the word “Tout”, pinned to his chest.

He had been left there to bleed his young life in pain and loneliness and indignity. He was still alive when he was found, but died in hospital in the early hours of the morning. He was 15 and had a mental age of eight. The IRA didn’t even bother to acknowledge responsibility for his murder. He was a piece of human trash, not worth claiming. Putting a gun to the head of a mentally handicapped kid and pulling the trigger was just another day’s work for the vanguard of the armed struggle.”

As Fintan O’Toole points out Bernard Teggart’s father was shot and killed by the British Army two years before he died –

“Two years before Bernard Teggart was dumped in the zoo, his father was murdered by the British army. As with his son, Daniel Teggart was smeared by those who shot him. The army initially acknowledged that he was unarmed, but later claimed that he had “cleverly hidden bullets” on him. As with his son, his death was treated as a matter of no account. He was murdered and lied about with impunity.

Imagine, however, that the British government had issued the following statement last week: “Following a request from the family of Daniel Teggart, the Government has carried out an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death on August 9th 1971. We can now confirm that Daniel Teggart was shot by the British army. We offer our sincere apologies to the Teggart family for the pain and grief we have caused. The killing of Daniel Teggart should not have happened.”

The explosions of outrage would still be echoing through the body politic. How dare they conduct a private investigation rather than a public inquiry? How can they insult a man’s memory with a bland statement that his killing should not have happened? Who killed him? Who knew about it? Who covered it up? Who will take political responsibility? The murder of Daniel Teggart would become an international scandal. And the loudest voices of outrage would be those of Sinn Féin.

There is a case to be made for simply drawing a line under everything that happened during the Troubles. That is not Sinn Féin’s line.”

His conclusion is damning of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fail:

“In the game of nod and wink that is being played by Fianna Fáil, in which one Ahern flies the kite of coalition with Sinn Féin and another pulls it down, there is no attempt to address this increasingly surreal double-standard. Sinn Féin’s inability to apply to itself the standards of truth and justice it demands of others is deeply pathological. What happens to IRA arms is vastly less important than what happens to the IRA mindset.

The sickness that allowed the IRA to murder a mentally handicapped child in the name of Irish freedom won’t be cured until the so-called republican movement is willing to confront, in an open and democratic way, the crimes it committed. Until that happens, Sinn Féin is not fit for government.”

The Irish Times

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