Friday, 7 January 2011

Pat Sheehan and 'civility'

In yesterday's Belfast Telegraph I argued that, if Northern Ireland remained "quite civilised" during the Troubles, it was no thanks to Pat Sheehan or other IRA members.

Is it a shock that Pat Sheehan, convicted IRA bomber-turned-West Belfast MLA, has a warped view of the Troubles? As the latest back-street revolutionary to turn Armani-clad seer and represent Sinn Fein at Stormont, it would be more surprising if he saw republican violence for the futile nihilism it was, rather than as a "probably quite civilised" campaign.
That won't relieve the hurt and revulsion felt by victims of 30 years of IRA 'civility' when they read his comments - made in an interview with David McKittrick.
The Assemblyman, recently co-opted to replace Gerry Adams, lauds the organisation for its restraint: "The IRA, if it had wanted to kill Protestants, could have left a 1,000lb car-bomb on the Shankill," he reasons.
Of course, the IRA did actually leave a bomb on the Shankill Road. It killed 10 people, including eight innocent shoppers and Thomas Begley, the IRA 'volunteer' who planted the device.
To Sheehan, and those who share his jaundiced mindset, those casualties don't quite qualify as 'blood-letting', because the perpetrators claim they weren't the intended target.
The whole notorious catalogue of republican atrocities can be dismissed with the same complacent logic: Enniskillen, La Mon, Bloody Friday, Claudy, all terrible mistakes. "I don't believe the IRA went out to kill civilians," Sheehan says.
The rationale is that, because it could have been even more callous, more indiscriminate, more murderous, the IRA's actions were "quite civilised".
Sheehan's choice of language is obscene, but it is more of what we've come to expect from the Sinn Fein propaganda machine. It is his broader point which deserves a little more attention.
He notes that Northern Ireland didn't witness the scale "of mass killing and genocide" which characterised other ethnic conflicts. That much is true enough.
But the absence of an Ulster 'Srebrenica' owes precious little to the IRA, or to the urban revolutionaries and nationalist fanatics who filled its ranks. The last thing we should do is congratulate terrorists - whether republican or loyalist - for their 'civility' during the Troubles.
The most important difference between Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland is that, while it failed as a state and fell apart, our security forces refused to allow us to descend into similar chaos.
We have the police and the army to thank for containing republican violence, harrying the IRA and maintaining a semblance of peace. Sheehan's comrades attempted to bring anarchy to our streets, but ultimately law and order prevailed.
Where it enjoyed the greatest freedom, in south Armagh and other border areas, the IRA showed no aversion whatsoever to ethno-religious violence.

1 comment:

Dixie said...

Pat Sheehan's article was a disgrace, I think he was trying to sugar coat his past and the IRA for the benefit of the next election to curry favor with the young constituents in West Belfast who hadn't experienced the past atrocities.