Terrorists and Forgiveness

The News Letter yesterday had an article quoting (and interviewing Ian Bothwell of the Crossfire Trust in Darkley). He suggests that some Republicans he has spoken to are “seeking forgiveness for their past.”

From the News letter:

He says he knows several former IRA members who would like closure on the deeds they have committed in the past.
“We are talking about a number of republicans who have engaged in front-line activity,” he told the News Letter.
“They would like closure. They would like to deal with the torment in their minds and I think they would like to have a framework which would allow them to feel safe in doing so.
“This really needs to be openly and purposely supported by churches and political leaders across the board. I think some people really feel bad and do regret the past.
“They are maybe sorry for the pain they have caused, yet not sorry for having felt they had to do it.
“They are on a journey and if they were to see the appropriate response coming from across the other side of the community at the same time, then I think we could be amazed at how far we could get at forgiving and letting go.
“I think we could be amazed at the area of common ground we could find in pursuit of lasting deep peace and wholeness.”
“People have expressed these feelings to me,” he said.
“We are talking about a number of people from Keady down to Crossmaglen, ranging from their forties to older. These people are seeking forgiveness for their past actions.”
But is there an inner conflict in the minds of people who are tormented by their past deeds and yet may still feel there was justification for their actions?
“That is the hub of the issue,” Ian says. “There are days when they will see it one way and days they will see it another. That is a reflection of the journey they are on. That is the dilemma for those of us trying to get a handle on the past.

The problem with this seems to be that it is almost exclusively from the terrorists themselves. They want “closure”; they want “to deal with the torment in their minds” and “They are maybe sorry for the pain they have caused, yet not sorry for having felt they had to do it.”Therein lies the problem. The process they want is perpetrator focused: victims and their relatives need to help the terrorists “move on”, have “closure” etc. Mike Nesbitt the former Victims’ Commissioner was highly sceptical about the issue in today’s News Letter:

“This is not a criticism of Ian Bothwell and his Crossfire Trust charity, but the fact is that there is a simple remedy – they should present themselves at the nearest PSNI station,” Mr Nesbitt said in a UUP statement.
“These people are seeking help to overcome their feeling of guilt for past actions but I would need to be persuaded about any sort of truth process. Until those who shout loudest for ‘truth’ agree to come clean about their own past we should not be doing anything.”
In particular, he cited scepticism of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and his assertions that he was never in the IRA, despite the fact that he had engaged in talks with the Government about IRA matters in the early 1970s.

This position would certainly chime with that of any victims I know. Some victims do not want prosecutions but many do. They may know that the terrorists would only get derisory sentences considering their crimes. They also know that it is perfectly clear that many terrorists are not going to be pursued for the supposed greater good: justice having been totally disregarded for political motives. The formal proclamation of an amnesty whether as part of a “Truth (quarter truth) Process” or otherwise would simply be a further insult to them and the memories of their loved ones. The idea that they the victims might be expected to help the murderers feel better about their actions is likely to be an even greater insult.

At a religious level all brands of Christianity here believe that the terrorists can receive forgiveness from God but most / many would suggest that they need to accept the wrongness of their actions and quite possibly accept the earthly consequences of those deeds (imprisonment).

Nesbitt raises an even more serious problem than the insult to surviving relatives of the proposed plan. Again from the News Letter:

In his statement, he said that as a victims’ commissioner, he had the “horrific” experience of hearing about a would-be perpetrator who approached his intended victim to confess that he had targeted him decades ago.
Mr Nesbitt said: “The two men had been at school together, and the victim only survived because he happened to be standing chatting at a street corner under a bright light when the perpetrator approached.
“The gunman waited, but the weight of the weapon in his pocket finally forced him to panic and he ran away. Twenty years on, he approached his victim and confessed.”
But while the gunman found some comfort from his confession, his intended target had nightmares.
“We cannot allow any displacement of emotion,” Mr Nesbitt said. If former terrorists are feeling guilt because their hands are blood-stained for the rest of her life, then that is simply “a reflection of the human condition, and the inhumanity of their actions. Their only recourse is the rule of law”.

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  • It is very good news that some people are feeling remorse. It shouldn’t be too surprising since many youths and young men who otherwise would have been fine citizens were led astray by their “more experienced” elders.
    However, as Mike Nesbitt says, they need to overcome any dichotomy in their minds and present themselves to the PSNI. Then face their victims or families of dead victims in court and apologise.

  • tacapall

    No matter what way it happens victims are going to feel pain.

    If there are republicans now feeling guilt about their past actions then at least they have some integrity and empathy for those victims and would like the truth to emerge unlike some Unionists and those who were supposed to uphold the law who hide under the cover of Special Branch who paid people like Mark Haddock to murder, who supplied one of the weapons that were used to murder 5 innocent people in Sean Grahams bookmakers.

    Are those Special Branch officers Terrorists and should they face the courts, apologise to their victims. To most sane people they should but in the crazy world of Unionism their actions were somehow justifiable.

  • ranger1640

    Mike Nesbitt has it 100% correct. Before redemption must come the truth and a confession to the state authorities.

  • Mick Fealty

    Not sure that’s quite what Nesbitt’s saying Tac.

    There are a lot of ex combatants in a terrible emotional state over what they did, or nearly did to friends and neighbours and looking for forgiveness, whilst in the process causing even further distress to the people they’d already hurt once.

    There’s no question of integrity involved unless there is some means of submitting those ‘needs’ to some kind of fair way of handling the conflicting rights of victim and perpetrator.

    At the moment the best we’ve got, he says, is go to the cops.

  • Drumlins Rock

    tacapall,
    I have no problem calling anyone who participated in or knowingly aided murder and destruction a terrorist, and would equally expect them all to come before the courts whether republican, loyalist or servants of either state, as Mike Nesbitt said they should go to their local PSNI station and tell all they know.

    Will you echo my call tacapall?

  • Turgon

    Mick,
    Indeed and from my conversations with victims and those who work with them (not a vast or scientific analysis but not trivial number represented therein) that option (going to the police) is the only acceptable one to the victims.

  • Mick Fealty

    Not sure that covers all victims. But it is the only practical option, aside from mounting expensive judicial reviews.

  • Mick,

    Of what use would judicial reviews be unless there are confessions? There are legal reviews underway , of course – the enquiries being held by the HET.

  • JR

    I suppose this is not really a subject I should be commenting on because I am neither a victim nor a combatant however I will throw in my tuppence worth.

    I personally don’t see the use in what is now a law abiding 60 year old going in and doing a token 2 Years for crimes commited as a teenager.

    I would say most combatants are at an age now where their grandchildren are starting to come along and are getting a new appreciation for the gift of life and what it really means to rob someone of that.

  • tacapall

    DR yes I would have a problem with going to the PSNI as these are the same people who allowed it to happen and who rehired those same RUC/Special Branch officers to work within their so called impartial police force. I say that because I haven’t seen/heard/read of any active investigations or impending trials of any of those police officers who paid, facilated and allowed agents of the state to murder at will both on the republican and loyalist side. It will never happen because people would be shocked and appaled if the truth came out as to how many deaths they could have saved but didn’t and how many deaths they activily arranged.

    Mick, Nesbitt is doing his job as a politician, playing to the Unionist gallery as thats what they want to hear “No sympathy for Republican terrorists.” but yet turn a blind eye to the increasing evidence that the security forces activily colluded with those same terrorists.

  • Turgon

    JR,
    “I personally don’t see the use in what is now a law abiding 60 year old going in and doing a token 2 Years for crimes commited as a teenager.”

    The logical outcome of that policy is that a criminal who avoids detection for a sufficient time should not be prosecuted. That might be reasonable in terms of minor crime. In these cases, however, we are talking about what is frequently murder and mass murder. It also involves murders some of which were committed less than 20 years ago.

  • JR

    Turgon,
    As I say. I might feel differant if I had lost a Child, Sibling or parent or if an attack was 15 years ago rather than 35.

  • tacapall

    Turgon.
    “In these cases, however, we are talking about what is frequently murder and mass murder. It also involves murders some of which were committed less than 20 years ago.”

    So why have no members of the Parachute Regiment been charged with the mass murder of civilians on bloody sunday yet or is that not in the publics intrest.

  • Mick Fealty

    Is that directly relevant to the question tac? The issue was not charging, but various ad hoc forms of ‘rapprochement’ that displace the trauma felt by perpetrator unto victim.

  • Mick Fealty

    Joe,

    You cannot take out a judicial review against a loyalist or republican death squad. You can if your loved one was a victim of state murder.

  • Turgon

    tacapall,
    As Mick says it is not directly relevant. I have, however, called for exactly that.

  • sonofstrongbow

    It is yet another myth, from a community that survives on myths and lives in a mythical place – ‘The North’, to suggest that unionists are equivocal about bringing perpetrators to justice whosoever they may be. If there is evidence of murder, for example in relation to ‘Bloody Sunday’ (even though Saville did not seem to find any) then let’s have it presented.

    As to the ongoing vendetta against the RUC by Irish Republicans there is a part of me that understands it. Success in others can raise the hackles of the inadequates amongst us, especially so when you recognize their successful endeavors were responsible for your own hopes for the future going kaput.

    Back on topic I would be happy to know that those responsible for heinous crimes suffer mentally. However I am not surprised to learn that their concerns are centered on their own wellbeing rather than the feelings of those they victimised.

    As they sit around their local drinking dens singing a few choruses of ‘The Battle of Old La Mon’ or ‘The Bold Boys of Teebane’ or whatever is their rebel ditty of choice and cry into their beer their tears will be for themselves.

  • carl marks

    Sonofstrongbow post shows up the problem with this thread, as long as many unionists maintain the fiction that their military wings (R.U.C, U.D.R, R.I.R, U.V.F, R.H.C. U.D.A etc) either have no case to answer or were somehow justified in the actions they took no matter how many ruined lives or innocent dead they left behind.
    Republicans know that many things that were done in their name was WRONG, but there was two sides (at least) in our dirty little war and progress in giving the victims some sort of closure all sides will have to fess up to its faults,

  • Republic of Connaught

    Son of Strongbow; “It is yet another myth, from a community that survives on myths and lives in a mythical place – ‘The North’”

    Have you not ever heard of the official ‘north-south’ ministerial council? Which part do you think the ‘north’ is referring to?

  • tacapall

    Fair enough Mick im sure there are many out there who are feeling remorse for their past actions and wish to somehow offload it but without having to go to prison for it. We all want retribution for past misdeeds the Irish people had to be content with the nearest thing to an apology a Queen could give when she visited Ireland lately. We are expected to put the past behind us when Tony Blair apologised for Britain’s role in the Great Irish hunger, we are expected to put the past behind us when David Cameron apologised for Bloody Sunday yet here we have Unionist’s demanding retribution for Republicans. Unless there is a general amnesty the truth will never come out and victims will never become survivors.

    Strongbow

    “As to the ongoing vendetta against the RUC by Irish Republicans there is a part of me that understands it. Success in others can raise the hackles of the inadequates amongst us, especially so when you recognize their successful endeavors were responsible for your own hopes for the future going kaput.”

    Why dont you take the blindfolds off and open your eyes was this one of the RUC’s successful endeavors.

    http://www.u.tv/News/Bookies-massacre-gun-given-by-RUC/cba24de2-fe4a-4299-8d6e-80b52325348c

    “On 5 February 1992, two UFF gunmen attacked Sean Graham’s bookmakers on Belfast’s Ormeau Road in broad day light, killing five men, including a 15-year-old teenager.

    Jack Duffin, 66; Willie McManus, 54; Christie Doherty, 52; Peter Magee, 18 and James Kennedy, 15, were shot dead in the attack.

    The investigation carried out by the Historical Enquiry Team found that a Browning pistol used in the atrocity had been given back to the loyalist killer gang by the police.”

    As for Bloody Sunday –

    “David Cameron risked the wrath of MPs in his party and made a formal apology on behalf of the government for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killings documented by Lord Saville’s inquiry, welcoming the “closure” it will now hopefully begin to give grieving families.”

  • sonofstrongbow

    carl marks’ post shows up the problem with the thread of ludicrous mythology that runs through the Irish Republicans’ narrative of the past. They see the murder gang they first supported in depressingly large numbers, and then voted for in depressingly large numbers, as an ‘army’ engaged in a ‘war’ against an opposing ‘army’ made up of police officers, a real Army and a selection of loyalist murder gangs.

    Sadly the myth doesn’t stack up. That many, many loyalists were arrested and put in prison by their police ‘buddies’ and that Irish Republican ‘POWs’ were released throughout the duration of the ‘war’ having served their sentences, as just two examples, are conveniently ignored.

    But I fear the ‘war’ story will continue to be pedalled in much the same way as snake oil. Perhaps it’s the outworking of some deep-seated shame at their boys’ activities or simple crass justification for the murder and mayhem. Who knows?

  • carl marks

    Sonofstrongbow.
    It’s truly sad that you cannot see the role paid by government forces in the past. It may help you to pretend that it wasn’t a war that happened in the north, that allows you to ignore the part that unionism played is the run up to the whole thing and its action during the war, then you can also pretend that the police and army done many evil things.
    You and a few like you do nobody any favours with this attitude of “we were Saints it was all those evil Catholics fault.
    Special Branch was responsible (both directly and indirectly) for not only the deaths of many Catholics but also of many Protestants.
    The U.D.R/R.I.R was to all intents and purposes the armed wing of unionism and a training program for loyalist killers.

  • sonofstrongbow

    carl marks,

    In the words of the much lamented Frank Carson : it’s the way you tell ’em.

    But seriously a ‘war’? Come on tell me why were the Brits so bad at it? 30,000 plus troops and police on the streets at the height of the troubles, the most rookie cop on the beat with a sheet of photos of the local criminals (sorry, ‘enemy soldiers’) in his back pocket stopping them only to take their names or occasionally arrest them for a visit to Castlereagh? Oh what a lovely war for- the Oglee na Hairon recruits at least.

    Just to be clear I’ll reprise my first post on this thread. Where evidence of crime exists any police officer, soldier, ‘securocrat’ or spook suspected to be involved should be prosecuted. Some did cross the line but to regard such criminality as government policy is a Republican wet dream.

    You see the vast majority of unionists want their community’s transgressors jailed. In the main as a community we preferred to see ‘our’ lawbreakers shown on the six o’clock news heading for prison, rather than, for example, being elected as public representatives. There again carl, different strokes for different folks.

  • Freaked-out-Unionist

    when yous have all stopped with the tribal drum beating
    you might consider the quote in the text

    ““They are on a journey and if they were to see the appropriate response
    coming from across the other side of the community at the same time,
    then I think we could be amazed at how far we could get at forgiving and letting go.”

    Discuss.
    or as peteb would say back on topic – redux- ed – anyHoo

  • ranger1640

    Classic moving of goalposts. The emphasis in the communications is shifting from the original post, republican terrorists, wanting to be recognised as the only victims.

    To, it was the RUC’s, the UDR’s and the big bad Unionist communities fault. Imagine you nasty people, making all those peace loving, church going, indigenous sport playing people, go out and slaughter their non religious neighbours.

    Lets not mention the assistance they would receive from the state across the border as they carried out their heinous acts. Better it just one bad state in this alleged war.

    Mean while back at the ranch, why worry. Eventually the alleged troubled republican terrorists, will get a job up at the big house as an elected drone politico or special advisor. With their very one special brand of Irish republican victim hood intact and on display for all to see.

  • carl marks

    sonofstrongbow says
    You see the vast majority of unionists want their community’s transgressors jailed. In the main as a community we preferred to see ‘our’ lawbreakers shown on the six o’clock news heading for prison, rather than, for example, being elected as public representatives. There again carl, different strokes for different folks.

    of course you do, that explains the Loyalists who still trouble us. one wonders how these thugs manage to stay out of jail, Unionism has inspired us all with the enthusiasm that the PUL politicians church leaders and ordinary citizens have worked so closely with the forces of the law to lock these people up.
    Tell me SOS do you stick your fingers in your ears and go lalalalalala whenever another link between the blessed RUC and loyalists terrorist groups comes on the news,
    Did you miss the third farce or Ulster resistance or how does the fact that the politicians who formed those terror groups were elected to represent unionism effect you.
    How about Peter, of Clontirbret with the UVF fame, your shame at unionism picking him as its leader must be terrible,

  • carl marks

    Freaked-out-Unionist,
    ““They are on a journey and if they were to see the appropriate response
    coming from across the other side of the community at the same time,
    then I think we could be amazed at how far we could get at forgiving and letting go.”

    If you look at my first post on this thread you will see that I recognise the harm done by my community, and the quote is in my opinion correct.
    However inside unionism (and to a lesser degree nationalism) there is a victim mentality that states it was all the other side’s fault and we done nothing wrong, I think that both SOS and ranger have proved my point.

  • ranger1640

    CM interesting post, and what part did the largest republican/nationalist party play in the making of victims??? or is that a taboo subject.. After all it easier for a shinner to go through the eye of a needle than a Unionist to be a victim.

  • carl marks

    CM interesting post, and what part did the largest republican/nationalist party play in the making of victims??? or is that a taboo subject.. After all it easier for a shinner to go through the eye of a needle than a Unionist to be a victim.

    I have already stated that my community done wrong and made many victims both nationalist and unionist, but tell you what I am obviously bereft of the high moral ground unlike you, so why don’t you lead by example tell me what the unionist parties an unionists in general done wrong done wrong, ( I’m going to a fundraiser for Mountain Rescue at the weekend i will throw in another £10 if you come up with a honest list)

  • carl marks

    sorry i done wrong should have been only one done wrong in the above post

  • Mark

    Ranger , you sound like you got your latest soundbite from a Unionist fortune cookie .

  • Alias

    Loughgall was the probably closest that the squalid sectarian squabble came to being a war. And as we saw, PIRA were rather good at sneaking out from behind hedges and shooting civilian police officers in the back of the head as they arrived home from work but failed abysmally as anything other than pretend soldiers. Although, in fairness, they were set up by their own leaders at Loughgall so I suppose that doesn’t really count…

  • Freaked-out-Unionist

    carl I agree
    to be frank, Turgon ( turgid) has gone on a solo-run
    and taken the very good article down his own private road
    definitions of victims, and legal conundrums.

    This subject really is about the present not the past
    the journey, moving on.

    some unionists still have a “posse” mentality
    imagining they are in hot pursuit of republicans
    like cowboys with lasso’s hollering “hang em high”

  • The Raven

    Sonofstrongbow writes, as so many others do:

    “It is yet another myth, from a community that survives on myths and lives in a mythical place – ‘The North’, to suggest that unionists are equivocal about bringing perpetrators to justice whosoever they may be.”

    …and leave out the word that infers the important bit: there’s a difference between some unionists and all unionists…

  • BluesJazz

    Carl Marks:
    You and a few like you do nobody any favours with this attitude of “we were Saints it was all those evil Catholics fault.
    Special Branch was responsible (both directly and indirectly) for not only the deaths of many Catholics but also of many Protestants.

    Does your 2nd statement not counteract the 1st.?

    Also, do you know the religion of all the British soldiers who served (and still serving) here? How many of them were Roman Catholic? Probably a substantial % in what was a religious sectarian conflict. yet they didn’t (mostly) allow that to get in the way of their proffesionalism.

  • BluesJazz

    http://www.vexen.co.uk/military/religion.html

    At least the Army weren’t sectarian.

    The Catholic death squads (IRA and INLA), and the Protestant death squads (UDA and UVF) were not honest that they were murdering for their own sectarian motives.
    Priests and Pastors have a lot to answer for.

  • carl marks

    BluesJazz,
    Indeed you would be right about my statements contradicting each other if i laid all the blame at the feet of one section of the community but I’m not , if you read my posts in this thread you will see that the first thing i did was to admit the responsibility of my side for a lot of what happened.
    While i also believe that the majority of regular British army troops who served here were not sectarian, they in many cases where given orders to by politicians to obey which to all intents and purposes were sectarian.

    and yes you are right priests and pastors do have a lot to answer for.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Ach sure,it all worked out fine in the end. Didn’t it ? 😉

  • carl marks

    Ach sure,it all worked out fine in the end. Didn’t it ? 😉

    im sure the shinners agree with you, after all like it or not they are running the country now 😉

  • Freaked-out-Unionist

    aye carl,
    what with SF holding the balance of power North and South de facto
    along with SNP breaking away from the pack
    we’re in for some changes
    there’s no turning back .
    the welsh will have to content themselves with the grand-slam 😉

  • Alias

    “what with SF holding the balance of power North and South de facto
    along with SNP breaking away from the pack”

    Freaked-out-Unionist AKA Percy AKA Parsifal, neither of those parties are a threat to the union. They’re about managing dissent, not acting on it.

  • carl marks

    Alias (profile) says:
    2 March 2012 at 8:47 pm

    “what with SF holding the balance of power North and South de facto
    along with SNP breaking away from the pack”

    Freaked-out-Unionist AKA Percy AKA Parsifal, neither of those parties are a threat to the union. They’re about managing dissent, not acting on it.

    Alias are you sure you are on the right thread or do you Just ignore reality and make it up as you go along, maybe im wrong perhaps you could give us your rational for that last rather strange statement.

  • @Broc_Boyd

    ” “They are maybe sorry for the pain they have caused, yet not sorry for having felt they had to do it.”Therein lies the problem. ”

    The idea that republican terrorists can be “sorry for the pain they have caused” yet not sorry enough to go to the authorities is ludicrous. They are not sorry, they are feeling guilty, they are suffering from personal demons which have been self inflicted and are now seeking to reverse the position of the “victim” by forcing the guilt they are feeling onto the real victims.

    Victims would be more likely to forgive these terrorists knowing that 20 years down the line they handed themselves in, providing real closure for both sides. The apparent unwillingness for the terrorists to do this shows just how many Republicans are genuinely sorry!

  • HeinzGuderian

    Freaked-out-Unionist AKA Percy AKA Parsifal, neither of those parties are a threat to the union. They’re about managing dissent, not acting on it.

    Ayee. The old ‘black spot’ doesn’t seem to be working as well as it used to ? 😉

    carl,calm down dear,calm down.
    Your beloved Stormont is running smoothly,and indeed,your beloved shinners are an integral part of HMG !!

    Ach sure,it all worked out fine in the end. 🙂

  • harpo

    I see that some republicans quickly dragged this thread down to the issue of ‘whatabout unionists?’ but the core issue here is that it is only republicans who appear to be having a bad time due to their guilt. Let’s focus on that issue, instead of diverting it into the usual nonsense about unionist attitudes to something else.

    If these republicans really wanted closure via saying sorry and being forgiven couldn’t they simply contact the families of their victims and say sorry and ask for forgiveness? It really is that easy.

    I take it that this proposed ‘framework which would allow them to feel safe’ is one whereby they would face no legal consequences for identifying themselves as perps.

    So to those who have said that these people have integrity for expressing this view I say you’re talking nonsense. True integrity would involve these Provo perps saying sorry and asking for forgiveness never mind any potential legal consequences. What we are talking about here is the usual Provo version of integrity under which their own welfare comes first.

    I say screw them. Let them rot with their guilt and bad dreams.

    If they really meant it they’d contact the families of their victims, say sorry and ask for forgiveness even if the families then took the step of passing on the confessions to the authorities for legal action.