OTR legislation and the attempt to re-write history

Kevin Myers picks apart the proposition being put forward by Gerry Adams that at the end of the Troubles only the forces of the state should be held accountable, whilst anti state forces should be given a general amnesty.

Gerry Adams once again spake in Shinnese on the issue last week, when he denied that republicans had double standards in seeking to close cases for republican paramilitaries, but to keep them open if they involved members of crown forces. “The fact is that hundreds of people have been killed by the British crown forces, and there is an attempt to cover up this issue, and I think people understand that.” Only in the burlesque world of Shinnery could such preposterous falsehoods exist. Go, as one should daily do, to David McKittrick’s Lost Lives, to get a measure of how risibly evil the Adams world-view is. Republicans were responsible for 58.3 per cent of all deaths in the Troubles. The regular British army was responsible for 6.5 per cent, and special forces were responsible for 1.7 per cent. The RUC was responsible for 1.4 per cent. The UDR (as UDR) killed eight people, just 0.2 per cent. Yes, point two per cent. The regiment’s dead numbered some 200 – surely, the highest disproportion in any conflict anywhere. The Royal Irish Regiment’s contribution to the dead of the Troubles? Nought per cent.

The British army was responsible for 158 civilian deaths, 4.27 per cent of the total. The IRA killed 644 civilians – 17.4 per cent of the total. The IRA also killed 163 republicans. In other words, republican fratricides accounted for more deaths than the total number of civilians killed by British soldiers. Moreover, many killings by soldiers were in return-fire incidents, which had been initiated by terrorists, and young soldiers had to make instant, often impossible decisions about whom to shoot and whom not. Such killings of the innocent cannot usually and decently be called murder. Moreover, the pressure of terrorist warfare explains 13 “blue-on-blue” security force killings of their colleagues.

Nationalist Ireland has been tiresomely but predictably huffing and puffing about the “scandal” of letting security force colluders go free. And in Tony Blair’s abject and craven attitude towards Shinnerdom, he might even give ground here, with British soldiers thus finding themselves in the dock while republican and loyalist terrorists are effectively pardoned for far worse crimes. If that is so, Blair may now withdraw his troops from Iraq before they mutiny there or, more probably, stay in barracks, reading porn.

For, as a group, the British army suffered massively in the Troubles, with 688 dead. And how many terrorists were convicted of involvement in murdering soldiers? Four hundred? One hundred? No. Just 81. Which means that the deaths of 597 soldiers went without any punishment whatever.

Moreover, most of those convicted were in fact bit-part players, while the really serious killers – the snipers, the bomb-makers, the land-mine detonators, the point-blank assassins – why, they have mostly never been punished for their crimes.

The simplest way of drawing an end to the most purposeless, stupid and unproductive terrorist campaign of the 20th century in Europe is to say its crimes will not now be judicially revisited. The dead are dead, the guilty are guilty, but there can be no question of creating a legally binding hierarchy of victimhood, of rightness and wrongness. We may all have our many different opinions on this, but to incorporate such a hierarchy into a formal and lasting political agreement is merely to recreate the mythology of “Black and Tan evil, IRA saint-like and suffering”, and thus generate the DNA of further troubles.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

reasons to be cheerful