In noting and contrasting the language used in the public statements by Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy – “We will continue to press for the total end to the British military occupation of the Six Counties.” – with that of members of the British Army, such as Lt Gen Nick Parker – “What I believe the military have done here is make a significant contribution to the security in Northern Ireland that has allowed other people to make the difference through politics, social programmes and economics.” – on the ending of Operation Banner, the Belfast Telegraph’s Lindy McDowell makes an interesting point in wondering what is actually being said in private.
The ending of the “military occupation of the Six Counties” is one way of putting it.
But up at the once-hated Stormont a former commander in the IRA is now serving as Deputy First Minister in the once-hated partitionist Assembly, chortling happily at the bon mots of his New Best Friend, the once-hated Ian Paisley.
Surely even the volunteers must now wonder about the success of republican strategy. And what all those deaths, all that misery and suffering, actually achieved.
History will take the long look at their long war. But it’s hard to see how it will be judged as anything other than a wrong war. A grubby little campaign of sectarian savagery which in the end divided more than it united.
The Army hierarchy will, of course, be careful not to make that point. They’re being understandably careful not to say anything that might upset the peace process applecart. The soldiers who have left here are now desperately needed to bolster the overstretched forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To them Northern Ireland is history.