Troubles Legacy: What happens when narrative fiction meets narrative fact?

Ben Lowry says some have high hopes of the HIU (which has all the tools to do proper historical inquiry that HET didn’t, but was on a political choke chain), which may be disappointed. But he has a point when he notes:

If the state had been even remotely as ruthless as republicans imply, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams and other leading republicans would have been dead before the end of 1972, let alone alive and active in the republican movement decades later.

The silence of political moderates amid this legacy push to justify the IRA is central to its success – and I specify the IRA because there is no push to justify loyalist terrorism.

But I know enough long-standing Alliance members to be able to testify to the abhorrence that they almost invariably feel towards all terrorism, even though their decency is such that they try to be positive and talk constructively about the future.

Truth is that most voices who dominate the narratives surrounding Northern Irish politics are Catholic and of a nationalist background. Public commentary (including here on Slugger where despite protests to the contrary) is predominated by CNR voices.

Ben again:

Some unionists who have been following legacy developments tell me I have got this wrong and that the coming Historical Investigations Unit will be uncomfortable for the IRA.

I continue to fear that there are number of reasons – some innocent, some not – why it could turn disproportionately on a state that prevented civil war and that reacted with such exemplary restraint to murder and mayhem, albeit with grave lapses (cumulatively many, proportionately few).

The second reason that Dr McGarry and Mr Cushnahan’s interventions are important is that they are from a Catholic background.

It is increasingly hard for anyone from a Protestant background to dispute the narrative that Northern Ireland was an apartheid state to which violence was a reasonable response.

Disputing that leads to howled charges of sectarianism.

That’s absolutely true (and I expect the comment zone is about to prove Ben – and myself – right again for the umpteenth that nothing gets the dander up more than “an upitty Prod”).


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