Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why Lord Tebbit is wrong, as always

Norman Tebbit, his wife (pictured) were victims of the 1984 IRA Brighton bombing of the Tory Party conference, an event which, no doubt, has had a profound personal impact on their lives. It is understandable that he feels aggrieved at having been blown up, who wouldn't.

However, he is wrong to say that if there is an inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings then there should also be an inquiry into the Brighton bombing, and indeed every other death at the hands of the Republican movement.

He says that "The victims of Brighton are no less important than those of Londonderry. They should not be treated as second-class victims... Some victims, the peace process seems to imply, have superior rights to others."

This is interesting because he spent most of his career treating the people of "Londonderry" as second class citizens and has rarely, if ever, expressed sympathy for the victims of Bloody Sunday. More to the point though I'm not sure it follows that giving justice to those shot dead by British soldiers that day does, somehow, downgrade the status of other victims of the troubles.

It does however say quite a bit that Tebbit is unable to hear these victims get sympathy without somehow implying that this sympathy is an insult to others. It never works the other way round does it?

When the Brighton bombings come up does he feel obliged to say "We must also remember that there were victims on the other side too who must feel terrible." Not a bit of it. You're more likely to hear the Generals and officers who are currently busy muddying the bloody waters to point out when some media sycophant points out that many soldiers were professional and restrained in their job that "we should not forget that others were murderous psychopaths just looking for any excuse to bully, victimise, torture or even murder someone if they could get away with it."

However, there is a very good reason why Bloody Sunday needed an inquiry and the Brighton bombing does not - and it has nothing to do with how "worthy" the victims of the two events are.

Patrick Magee, who was released under the Good Friday Agreement, was personally responsible for the Brighton bombing. He admits this, and it is uncontested. He did this under the instructions of the Provisional IRA who, at the time, said "Mrs Thatcher will now realise that Britain cannot occupy our country and torture our prisoners and shoot our people in their own streets and get away with it. Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no more war."

All the key facts around the Brighton bombing are uncontested and the political reasons for the bombing are clear and open. We can argue about whether the bombing was "a good thing" or not, although I doubt there are many these days who'd be willing to defend it, but there is no cloak of secrecy around the events.

Unlike the IRA the British State was never clear and unequivocal about what had happened or why. The victims were lied about. It was said they were armed, that they were rioters, that they had petrol bombs, that the British soldiers were returning fire. None of this was true, but all of it was repeated as truth in the British press while dissenting voices, who knew the truth, were silenced.

That is why the events of Bloody Sunday required an inquiry - the uncover the truth that had been denied in all the official accounts. The victims of the Brighton bombings know the truth. It does not make them second class victims as Tebbit claims just because the state never took the trouble to smear and denigrate those who'd been killed.

1 comment:

Edward said...

There were other atrocities committed during the "troubles". Some by the security forces, but many more by republican and loyalist groups. Many innocent civilians were killed or injured as a result.

If the leaders of the northern irish parties really want closure, shouldn't they be demanding the truth about these events and apologies?

Sinn Fein could provide leadership here by coming clean about the events their members were involved with and apologising. So far they have refused to do so which raises questions in my mind about their long term commitment to the peace process.