Eames Bradley and last week

I have practically no doubt that one of my least favourite prelates condemns unreservedly the murders of last week. The major problem is that Eames Bradley could scarcely propose anything other than the rapid arrest of the terrorists involved in last week’s events, their prosecution and prolonged imprisonment. To do anything else now would reduce their battered credibility, already almost zero, into significant minus numbers.However, in their report Eames Bradley did not suggest the prosecution of the terrorists under the full rigor of the law. Let us go back to a few of the quotes from Eames Bradley’s document “The Past should be dealt with in a manner which enables society to become more defined by its desire for true and lasting reconciliation rather than by division and mistrust, seeking to promote a shared and reconciled future for all.” Then we have “A reconciling society takes collective responsibility for the past instead of attributing blame and avoiding responsibility.”

The problem for Eames Bradley is that the community is now fairly united in its reconciled desire to attribute blame to the criminals involved in these latest murders. If Eames Bradley proposed that after five years another commission should suggest an amnesty for the perpetrators of the latest outrages there would be an outcry. If Eames Bradley demanded that after any possible conviction of these latest criminals, they then be allowed to have their records wiped clean; there would be near hysteria.

There is, however, no logically consistent way by which Eames Bradley can justify differing treatment for these latest criminals than for previous murderers. There are a few by which a distinction could conceivably be drawn but they lack any semblance of logical or moral consistency.

One would be to accept the legitimacy of the previous terrorist campaigns and that indeed in the past the IRA (and I guess then the loyalists) were fighting a genuine war. That would allow them to denounce the current terrorists as murderers with no support etc. It would of course also be to buy at least in part into SF’s analysis of the conflict that then was a war which is now over. This would clearly be extremely problematic since Eames Bradley, after briefly flirting with that idea of the troubles being a war, seemed to go off it. Such a plan would also result in Lord Eames especially receiving opposition which would make David Simpson’s look mild.

Another option the noble Lord and Mr. Bradley might consider would be to suggest that the past was the past and as such “…taking into account the receding possibilities” pursuing the last lot of terrorists is impractical whereas the new ones may be realistically apprehendable. That of course goes back to the flaw I mentioned previously that in most jurisdictions murderers continue to be pursued for many years. It would also logically imply that if the murderers from last week can manage to remain at large for a few years then (according to Eames Bradley) their pursuit is pointless. Such a suggestion would again be likely to cause outrage. However, again that is the logic of the Eames Bradley proposals, as is the implicit admission I mentioned above that in the future an amnesty would be a reasonable idea.

The reality of course is that the latest murders are a carbon copy of the previous 3500 murders. There are no differences unless one accepts the republican movement’s (and loyalist’s) attempts at self justification. Eames Bradley can pretend a distinction and hence, abandon themselves to the opprobrium of all reasonable people. Alternatively they could admit that these latest murders expose the intellectual and moral vacuity at the heart of their project and that it is not fit for purpose. I suspect, however, they will actually try to keep their heads down and if necessary mumble some meaningless and intellectually lazy platitudes: no change there then.

  • Turgon,

    Your analysis is so good that I would not challenge it. In fact, that may be why there has been no comment on it before me!

    I am sure that if the recent murders had occurred a fortnight before the report was due to be published, you can bet that it would have been changed. It is unlikely they will make the admission you suggest near the end of the post though they could follow the example of the Pope (who admitted to the Vatican’s mishandling of the re-communication of the holocaust denying bishops).

    Perhaps I could mention another strand of the report which is more interesting to me. I refer to what is said about sectarianism. What hits you between the eyes is that here are a senior clergyman and an ex priest making criticism of the churches.

    It says (p 78) “There was a failure by the institutional church bodies to make a sustained united impact during the conflict”

    I would love to know what Dr. Eames thinks he should have done when he was Archbishop of Armagh during the time of the conflict. How would he have handled Drumcree if it happened now? He certainly hasn’t forgotten that episode. There is there an indirect reference to it. At the time of Drumcree, he criticised (Catholics for) the boycotting of shops (after Orangemen who owned shops made sectarian remarks on TV about Catholics). The report says (p 76) “Sectarianism produces negative behaviour seen in ordinary everyday activities, such as where we shop…”

    That curiosity aside, I totally agree that the Churches did not do enough during the conflict but I think it is such a huge understatement. With perhaps few exceptions which I am obviously not aware of, they are doing nothing like they should be doing even now. I can not think of a single ecumenical activity that my local parish has encouraged or taken part in during the last 10 years. I once asked my parish priest about that (I am Catholic by the way). He said that he has tried to engage with the local minister (Church of Ireland) who (he implied shuns him). That conversation was about 5 years ago. I also remember making a suggestion for a joint website with the local churches in the Parish (cold water was poured on that suggestion). I wont identify the parish. I think many of the clergy (including Dr. Eames when he was Primate) are too scared to come out of their comfort zone. I dont think enough effort or leadership has been made by them. It is simply not good enough that they only visible evidence of this is when two or more clergy from different churches are jointly interviewed on TV after a murder.

    Notwithstanding all the discussions about the troubles, the Churches (Protestant and Catholic) have got off far too lightly from criticism in the media. It is about time they were put under the cosh.