On the dubious use of statistics…

Newton Emerson questions the use of statistics by one of the many victims groups in Northern Ireland.

It includes every Catholic and Protestant killed north and south by every loyalist group. To ascribe all these deaths to British state connivance is a staggering assertion that no credible historical source could possibly support. The claim is also highly partisan. If all murders committed by informers or agents count as death by collusion, which is clearly the very least that Relatives for Justice wishes to imply, then a proportion of the 1,822 people murdered by the IRA between 1969 and 2001 must also have been victims of collusion. Why did Ms Reilly not allow for these deaths in her total?

Quite apart from the accuracy question, he also connotes a serious ‘moral hazard’:

Much talk of the “exploitation of working-class Protestant communities” continues to emanate from loyalist circles – and no wonder. Blaming every loyalist murder on the British state lets loyalists murderers off the hook. Furthermore, it continues to let loyalists off the hook for as long as Northern Ireland remains British. The republican concept of unionist “false consciousness” now apparently includes loyalist “false murder”.

And he concludes:

What a pity that this useful fiction is so obviously absurd, cynical, self-serving, callous, amoral and infantile – although I suppose it is quite an achievement to insult the victims of loyalists, the integrity of unionists and the intelligence of nationalists all at the same time. Sinn Féin might look forward to some far-off day when we can vaguely blame the Brits for every death.

But relatives really seeking justice need individuals – yes, even loyalists – to be held accountable for their actions.

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