Monday, 12 July 2010

Gated Communities

I have certain reservations about the need for gated communities although this is linked to my distaste for the Yummy Mummy types that tend to inhabit these areas. I would fall over myself to add that such people are no better and no worse than those from other layers of society (and indeed are often very thoughtful kind individuals), it’s just their Ikea/Waitrose view of life makes my teeth itch. An article in the Guardian recently highlighted the issue of gated communties following the death of two girls who were crushed by the gates.

Skipping to the end, the article concluded that the gates were not ‘worth the death of two young girls’ and that we as a society should remove them. In and of itself those gates are definitely not worth the death of those children but of course, that is not the reason for the existence of those barriers.

Firstly, I think that it is underhand to allude to the death of those girls and as far as I could see, link that to the exclusivity of those that live in a gated estate. Turning that emotive point on its head, it could be argued that the gates prevent children from running into the street and getting knocked down by a passing motorist. After all, many more children die from such incidences than those that are injured from gates. Seen in that light the gates offer more than just seclusion from the annoyances that living in a crowded conurbation bring to us all.

The author of the article also notes that paranoia is a reason that people choose to prefer to live within gated communities. This is a bit rich coming from an organ that is part of a network of media outlets that are constantly telling us that we are likely to fall victim to crime, road accidents, disease and terrorism. Is it any wonder that people wish to protect themselves from the myriad ills that are waiting to fall on us like some sort of biblical plague? Perhaps a sense of perspective from the media might go some way to allaying people’s fears the result of which would, hopefully, be an eagerness for people to re-engage with each other.

As ever, The Guardian has donned its rose-tinted spectacles when it comes to discussing matters of community. The author works on the assumption that people wish to interact with each other and that the rise of the gated community prevents this. I suppose that images such as that of the Silver Jubilee where various street parties were held to celebrate the Queen being in power for 25 years reinforce an idyllic idea that we were once constantly banging on each others doors and asking for a bowl of sugar. But for every street that played host to a party, there were several more that didn’t. I grew up on a council housing estate and none of the tenants that lived on the roads linked to that estate felt the need to organise a party (although this could be possibly due to a liking of the Sex Pistols and a tentative embrace of anti-monarchism).

What’s more, we didn’t get on with our neighbours and they did not get on with us – I would add that we were by no means unique in hovering between animosity and indifference with regard to neighbours. This happens. Simply living next to somebody does not automatically confer on a tenant a sense of wellbeing and goodwill to those that are in one’s immediate vicinity.

The article stated that instead of having gates for purposes of security that this role could instead be fulfilled by the simple expedient of supervision of houses, cars and people being completed by those people that lived on the estate or street. Very noble but not very realistic. As noted above people are scared, mainly through the unceasing efforts of the media. Having a gate provides the comfort (no matter how illusory) that all of the bad guys are beyond the threshold and that the people that live within that estate boundary are a little more secure than they would be otherwise. With this comes a small peace of mind.

The author ignores the fact that many gated communities house anywhere between twenty to a hundred families. Perhaps the people that live in some of these estate do look after each. Maybe they do hold gated community parties to celebrate the continued presence of a monarch. Not having to worry about speeding cars or roaming gangs of miscreants using the street you live on as a short cut, the tenants of the estate can relax and therefore extend a degree of civility. Perhaps it might be worth considering them as the modern equivalent of the tenants that organised street parties back in the seventies.

It seems hard to divorce oneself from the notion that as gated communities tend to be the preserve of the middle classes (as flabbily defined by the Guardian), that this piece is yet another dig by that paper at this section of society. In deciding that they wish to provide themselves with a degree of seclusion and remembering that it is likely that the people that inhabit these properties will engage with society (no matter how reluctantly) via shopping, work, commuting and such like, these people have done no more than seek a bit of respite from the hubbub that modern city life imposes on them. Everybody needs a bit of privacy even the much reviled middle classes.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Pre-Emptive Revenge

I was pondering the recent storming by Israeli commandos of the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza. When I initially heard about the attack by the Israeli’s I tried to refrain from the immediate ‘they’ve done what, the bastards?!” response of many. I was nonetheless surprised at the actions taken by Israel as from the comfort of my home it seemed a somewhat reckless and foolhardy decision to take.

All of which led me to further mull over the lengths that Israel will go to in what it perceives as a defence of its people which led me to the realisation that I should not have been surprised. Israel has proven time and again that it will regularly ignore borders and the sovereignty of other states in order to protect itself. And, it must be said, to occasionally enact revenge operations. The equally audacious and impressive kidnapping of Hitler’s right-hand man, Adolf Eichmann is a case in point. In capturing this war criminal in Buenos Aires without the permission of the Argentinian government, Israel blatantly ignored the sovereignty of that nation. For me though, the perseverance and single-mindedness of Israel is encapsulated in Operation Bayonet (or Operation Wrath of God as it sometimes more grandiosely known).

Operation Bayonet was Israel’s response to the murder of Israeli athletes by the Black September gang at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The terrorists (for that is what they are, with regard to this atrocity there is no way we can allow them to dignified with the label freedom fighters) took several Israeli athletes hostage in the Olympic Village. After demanding from the German authorities that they be given a plane a fire fight at the airport led to all of the hostages and five of the terrorists being killed. Of course, this being the Olympics the whole of affair was caught on television and screened to an aghast (or depending on your perspective, jubilant) world.

The incinerated remains of an Israeli athelete. Killed by a Black September terrorist after first being shot and then caught in the blast of a hand grenade. I cannot balance this sort of action with any concept of freedom fighting.

Whatever the merits of the German authorities handling of the hostage taking, it needs to be confirmed that the actions of Black September are beyond reprehensible. I do not believe for one moment that this was the only opportunity open to them (their demands were for prisoners held by the Israeli’s to be released) and they therefore deliberately targeted the Israeli athletes knowing that even if it did not win them sympathy it would certainly highlight the plight of the Palestinians.

Debates have followed as to how the German’s handled the crisis with some arguing that they could or should have done more before the airport fire fight. The whole situation was complicated by the German post-war constitution forbidding their army from operating within its borders thus removing the people probably best trained to launch any offensive action.

What was not up for debate was the Israeli response. Golda Meir the Israeli Prime Minister quickly made it apparent that those involved in the murder of the athletes would be hunted down. I imagine that many believed that this would result in people being taken to Israel to be tried, a la Eichmann. However, this could not be further from the actuality of the response Israel was planning.

In order to hunt down the terrorists a small group of agents was formed within Mossad. Known as Bayonet, the group numbered no more than 20 operatives.

Their first target was a gentleman named Abdel Wael Zwaiter. Zwaiter was the representative for the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Italy. Mr Zwaiter was confronted by 2 agents and shot several times. It should be noted that the PLO stated that Zwaiter was not involved with Black September and was merely executed by the Israeli’s as an exercise in revenge for the events at Munich. Indeed, a senior intelligence officer in Mossad is recorded as saying that:

"You didn't need blood on your hands for us to assassinate you. It's not that the assassinated were innocent, but if a plan existed, and those were often easiest for the soft targets, you were condemned to death"

Italian police officers inspect the body of Wael Zwaiter, executed by the Israelis who alleged that he was a member of Black September. There is no evidence linking Zwaiter to the events in Munich

The second victim of Bayonet - Dr. Mahmoud Hamshari - was the PLO representative in France. It is here that we start to move into the realm of Ludlum or Le Carre. A Mossad agent posed as a journalist arranged for an interview to be conducted with Hamshari. This meant that the target would be lured away from his Paris flat and that a team could gain access and plant an explosive device underneath/within his telephone. The agents were aware of the need to catch Hamshari alone (he lived in the apartment with his wife and daughter). This was done by the ‘journalist’ telephoning Hamshari and then once the latter had picked up the telephone, remotely detonating the device.

We should pause here and consider that assassinations have been undertaken on two occasions on the direction of a sovereign state and without the compliance of the nations that the killings took place in. Both France and Italy were, I imagine, completely oblivious to this extension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict now being implemented in within their borders. It is hard to imagine that they would have approved of any such action. It is not stretching the point to argue that in committing themselves to assassination squads who operate in and without the approval of another country Israel is running the risk of alienating those nations that would have otherwise have possibly been more compliant with their (Israel’s) ambitions. It is also worth considering that Israel was not alone in acting unofficially within the borders of another country as Black September demonstrated in Germany, but is it unfair or na├»ve to ask that a sovereign state should not stoop to the level of a terrorist outfit?

The desire to take revenge and the determination of the Israeli agents took on almost surreal aspect when it was decided that a group of Israeli Defence Force operatives would assassinate PLO leaders in their home territory of Beirut. Beirut being the stomping ground of the PLO meant that it would be difficult for uniform clad soldiers to launch an assault. Instead it was decided that the soldiers would dress up as civilians – with some soldiers dressed as women. Despite the almost ludicrous nature of the assault (cross-dressing commandoes is not a common theme in warfare) it obviously worked as the Israeli’s managed to kill several notable PLO militants: Muhammed Youssef al-Najir, Kamal Nasser and Kamal Adwan.

Al-Najir was a notable scalp as he was third in line to Fatah’s leadership as well as being an operations leader within Black September (Fatah being a left leaning Palestinian party whose rather singular and unrealistic aim is "complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence"). Unlike the Rome and Paris operations, little regard was given to civilian casualties. Estimates vary but it seems certain that more there were more than 50 fatalities a number of which were not linked to the PLO.

Muhammad Youssef Al-Najir lies dead after being shot by Israeli commandos in his Beirut apartment. His wife also died in the raid.

The lack of compunction about the death of innocents (despite Israeli claims to the contrary) reached its zenith with what became known as the Lillehammer Affair. Top of the Israeli hit list was Ali Hassan Salameh who was the Chief of Operations for Black September. Salameh was a flamboyant individual who when not organising acts of terror lived a life that made no secret of his predilection for fast cars and fast women. However, the Israeli’s mistook a Moroccan waiter named Ahmed Bouchiki for Salameh. A hit squad killed Bouchiki as he was out walking with his wife in Lille (who was pregnant at the time) with the result that agents were arrested and the much prized secret infrastructure of Mossad operations revealed.

Still Mossad were not deterred by this setback. In 1979 the Israeli’s got their man when Salameh was killed by a car bomb explosion in Beirut. Four bystanders were also killed and thus ended Operation Bayonet. An operation designed to prevent another Munich but that leaves me unable to shake the conviction that it was more a matter of revenge (understandable though that desire for revenge might be).

Ali Hassan Salameh is carried away to hospital. He was to die about an hour after this picture was taken from a shrapnel wound to the head.

Mossad has not publicly admitted how many of Black September were killed, and estimates range as high as twenty. It should also be noted that Black September were not lambs being meekly led to the slaughter either. They remained an aggressively active outfit as can be see from their murder of five innocent travellers in the departure lounge of Athens airport in 1973.

The actions of Israel have been described by some as not a matter of revenge but instead a collection of pre-emptive actions. Meaning that in executing those behind the Munich killings they (Israel) are stopping a likely recurrence. I must say that I not convinced. Even if all the Black September operatives were killed (as Israel attempted), what is to stop more people taking their place? Salameh was a particularly popular character amongst Palestinians and as we have seen his funeral was attended by tens of thousands of people. It likely that his death acted as a stimulus to those wishing to fill his steps. So the cycle of violence continues.

What is apparent from Operation Bayonet is that Israel will go to extreme lengths to get its men and women. After writing this piece and trawling through the depressing recent history of the Palestinian-Isreli conflict, I emerge shell-shocked but surprised that I was surprised at the attack on the fleet.

When recent history is also factored in (and let no one be under the assumption that the Holocaust is anything other than very recent history), my surprise almost slips into a kind of understanding. Israel is surrounded by enemies some of which have overtly promised to do their best to wipe the Israeli state from the face of the planet.

But, I cannot help wondering if such actions will alienate more and more people. I mean up until the attack on the humanitarian fleet, weren’t the Turkish there closest Islamic allies? Yet, more Turkish died during the flotilla assault than that of any other nationality. Israel’s pre-emptive measures have meant that one of the ‘friendliest’ and most influential states in the region has now distanced themselves from Israel.

I am fearful that Israel’s continued aggression will ultimately be their undoing and that such belligerence will lead to allies becoming enemies. The consequence of this could see Israel going down in flames. Unless you are an adherent of Fatah, this cannot be regarded as a good thing.

Further information can be found in two grim but well-produced documentaries: One Day In September which analyses the events at Munich and Munich: Operation Bayonet which is part of the BBC's documentary strand This World. This latter film details how the Israeli's tracked down and killed those it believed were involved in Black September.
A good book to read is Blood & Rage: A Cultural History Of Terrorism by Michael Burleigh in particular the chapter Attention-Seeking: Black September covers the events described above far more informatively than I could ever hope to achieve.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Public Versus Private

As we gear up (or in most cases, duck for cover) in preparation of the forthcoming budget, the media speculation gathers momentum (as an aside, is it me or is this the perfect time to produce a harsh budget, what with the World Cup and all?).

The Guardian published an article by a gentleman called Ed Holmes, who it appears is a research fellow in Policy Exchange’s economic unit. This is a ‘think tank’ that has the ringing endorsement of George Osborne and should therefore be treated with the utmost caution.

The article has been linked to above, but in short it states that public sector workers are overcompensated. To be fair, the author does say that this is not a reflection on their value (here, I am guessing that Mr Holmes is referring to their value to society although it wouldn’t surprise me if he was thinking purely in terms of monetary cost).

But how do we measure that value? What is the price of somebody paid to assist the infirm, unwell and ailing? How much should we pay those employed to put out fires (often at great risk to themselves)? What cost should society expect to bear for those employed to educate the next generation?

Mr Holmes continues in the current craze of comparing public sector pay to that of the private sector. But does this comparison hold up? Where is the private sector equivalent of a social worker, tenancy support officer or librarian? Is Mr Holmes then comparing these vocations with a bank teller, checkout assistant or chief executive of a corporation?

One can’t help but think that the whole public versus private sector debate smacks of divide and conquer.

Even where there are comparisons such as with teaching or medicine, the question is not whether those employed in the local comprehensive or NHS trust are earning more, but rather if they are, then why aren’t the private sector employees of those professions being paid more?

Do not many local authorities already ‘outsource’ (I hate such terminology) areas of work to private companies? What would be the impact on those companies if the local authority had its cuts constrained?

Mr Holmes has it wrong. It is not that the public sector are over compensated but it is more the case that the private sector employees are undercompensated. I mean why pay these people more when it would impact on profit margins? Let’s ignore the fact, shall we, that if they had better salaries then they would have more spending power which in turn would mean them spreading their wealth around and creating more work in order to their demand can be met. Why is this point is always ignored? Isn’t capitalism about wealth creation and distribution?

There are very few (neutral) voices disputing the value or necessity of the proposed cuts to the public sector. It is undeniable that the public sector is bloated and that in so many areas it could be made to operate more efficiently, but I am getting the suspicion that the current government is planning a wholesale demolition. If true then I am fairly fearful that the pending budget will be the start of a period of unrest, familial collapse, strikes, greed, rising crime and poverty. Same old Tories then.

A Considerable Threat

New York, September 11th 2001. A plane explodes on impact with one of the World Trade Centre towers. This attack in both its audaciousness and the resultant loss of life has galvanised nations around the globe into action against terrorism.

Since the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11th 2001, the world has become fixated on the threat that terrorism poses to the global order. Most states have responded by the introduction of new legislation designed to combat the threat that many feel is posed by the terrorists. For instance, the government of the United Kingdom passed four pieces of legislation since 2001, arguing that the threat the nation faces is currently unprecedented. This argument made all the stronger by the loss of life incurred when London was targeted in July 2005.

However, criticism of such legislation often fixes upon the vague nature in which terrorism has been defined. Groups such as Liberty argue that, for example, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to impinge on the civil rights of people who are merely protesting (see Liberty: Section 44 – The Terrorism Act 2000). If there is debate as to what constitutes a terrorist act then the legislation in place to combat such actions is weakened. Lord Carlile in his 2007 report ‘The Definition Of Terrorism’, whilst acknowledging that no definition exists that commands complete approval, refers to the following description as one that has achieved far reaching respect:

‘Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets’

The amorphous nature of terrorism makes it difficult to categorically establish who is a terrorist and who is not. This matter is also an issue of perspective. To the occupying German forces in France during World War II, the French Resistance Movement(s) could be and indeed were, viewed as terrorists, yet this would not be a view held by the Allies who gained from the activities of those groups.

The difference between the activities of groups such as the French Resistance and more contemporary factions is one of symmetry. Certainly the objectives of the French coalesced on the intended aim of removing the Germans from France, in this they found themselves aligned with a diverse group of nation states as well as operating for a state. Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, do not so readily fall under such categorisation as they are a network that operate across borders.

The cross border nature of terrorism (a sort of war on many fronts) is instructive as it illustrates something that many take for granted, that is, the use of organised violence was and is the sole preserve of a nation state. This idea was partially codified by The Treaty of Westphalia, which signalled the end of the 30 Years War in 1648 and was the first official recognition of the principle of sovereign states. Examples of this perception are plentiful and are readily demonstrated by the like-versus-like combatant nations seen in the First World War, where for example the state of Germany declared war on the state of Russia.

But, if one steps back and thinks about it there can be seen to be deep flaws in this idea. After all, the German aggression of the Second World War was an action embarked upon by a nation state with costs that transcend anything that a terrorist group could achieve.

Russian civilians view the corpses of people executed by Germans. The system of occupation employed by the Germans was one of subjugation and terror.

In the contemporary period it is seen as being unlikely that modern, advanced and equivalent states would go to war against each other with exceptions being those nations categorised as rogue. To elaborate further: the idea that France and Britain would resume previous conflicts is deemed a remote possibility. More plausible is if a state is pitted against another state it is more likely to manifest itself as a war like that currently being fought in Iraq, with the latter state being viewed as a rogue nation and one that presents as a threat to the wider world (sponsorship of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and if one is being cynical, vast reserves of oil...).

Currently, the threat against the (poorly defined) global order is viewed as being most likely to originate from terrorist organisations who are themselves and as noted above, likely to receive support from the aforementioned rogue states. This alliance between operatives regarded as being outside of the clique of modern liberal states is exemplified with the support that Syria provided to the Lebanese based paramilitary group Hezbollah.

As noted above, symmetry was very much a factor or state versus state conflict, whereas the manner in which sub-state groups such as Al-Qaeda operate is asymmetrical. Operatives within terrorist groups are hidden amongst the civilian population, as this provides them with a camouflage which is required due to their being so much more feeble than the states they are in conflict with.

The attacks on the Twin Towers resulted in many leaders from states around the globe uniting in their condemnation. A common thread amongst the speeches was their realisation that their status as great powers (or at least their role within that structure) was under threat. That is, a sub-state organisation or network was directly challenging the authority of the powers that be. The attack by Al-Qaeda represented an example of complete disregard to the idea that cross-border assaults could or would only be implemented sovereign states.

The major nation state powers have achieved their pre-eminence at least partly through agreements in matters such as trade. This globalised system has led to states - to a limited degree - surrendering their autonomy and a consequent permeability forming along borders. Terrorist groups have been quick to exploit this with the result that previously independent states are now very much influenced by events that happen in another country. This was recognised by Tony Blair who in a 2001 parliamentary speech noted that:

“…in the UN, in G8, in the EU, in Nato, in every regional grouping in the world, to strike at international terrorism wherever it exists.”

There are a combination of reasons as to why terrorism could be considered a threat to the global order. Notable amongst these is the difficulty that people have in defining what constitutes a terrorist group. Therefore any legislation is difficult to establish and in doing so states run the risk of increasing the ire of those who feel that their civil liberties are being eroded. They also undermine the 'Liberal' and 'Democratic' labels that are often paraded as examples of the superiority of their system when compared to the ideology espoused by groups such as Al-Qaeda.

The liberal lifestyle often espoused as a raison d’etre for democratic states is threatened by draconian measures introduced to combat the danger that terrorists present. Arguably the greatest threat comes from the ability of terrorists groups to exploit the fault lines that are a by-product of the very system which has provided the liberal democracies with their dominant status. Globalisation has seen the generation of hitherto undreamt of wealth and advancement but in agreeing to be part of that system states have necessarily relinquished control of their borders and thus provide an avenue of opportunity for terrorists.

Further Reading:
Lord Carlile of Berriew Q.C., The Definition Of Terrorism, The Stationary Office, Norwich, 2007

Haass, R. (2005) The Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course, New York, Public Affairs

Lowenhein, O. (2007) Predators and Parasites: Persistent Agents of Transnational Harm and Great Power Authority. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press

Friday, 18 June 2010

One Way Traffic From All Sides

Patrick Doherty (aged 31) lies dead after being shot by Paratroopers during the Bloody Sunday demonstrations on 30th January 1972. Image retrieved from the Oracle Thinkquest website. Original photograph by Gilles Perres

The recent Saville enquiry has been concluded with many claiming that at last justice has been seen to be done for the victims of the Bloody Sunday killings. I cannot disagree with this sentiment as for many decades the families of the victims have been campaigning for the British Government to come clean over those events. In short, they wanted to know why unarmed civilians had died under a hail of bullets when demonstrating against what they perceived was an intrusive and biased occupation by British forces.

The Guardian has provided extensive coverage of the inquest including inviting Gerry Adams to comment on the findings. Some have reacted with fury to this, but I cannot understand why. Whatever one’s opinions on the conflict, it cannot be denied that Mr Adams was a major figure of the dispute. As such he will have a deep understanding of the issues at stake and it makes sense to hear his opinion on the enquiry.

In a sense Mr Adam’s opening statement sums up the whole sorry story – to a degree. “But many more families continue to be denied truth”. Indeed. Of course, Mr Adams is continuing in the struggle to divorce himself from his sectarian/nationalist stance and is therefore solely referring to the truth being denied to the families who were victims of the British. He is not referring to the many more individuals who were brutalised by the IRA.

That sentence and the bias that the author exudes illustrates the problem that I have when discussing the troubles in Northern Ireland. Most people – not exclusively limited to Ireland – have become so entrenched in their position that they are not willing to listen, let alone discuss, an alternative view. Can we really imagine Ian Paisley or Martin McGuiness countenancing their opposite number’s ideas? These people are after all a section of society who regard and analyse their ancestry with the eye of somebody using a microscope. What chance is there to move forward when the competing arguments trace much of their grievances to the seventeenth century?

Returning to Mr Adams commentary it can be seen that he has cherry-picked sections of the report and the resultant reactions (no reference, for example, to Martin McGuiness being armed with a machine gun). For example, he highlights the fact that:

“On the way home someone had placed hundreds of little name plaques along the grass verge at the side of the road outside Dungiven. The names were of hundreds of citizens killed by the British army and other state forces here during the conflict, including the 11 from Ballymurphy.”

In as far as it goes, fine. These people need to be remembered if only as a reminder of what the state can do when it unleashes its armed forces on its civilian populace.

But what then of the people killed by the IRA? What of those killed in Birmingham or Guildford? Remember the innocent who served sentences for those attacks? Well, that wouldn’t have happened if the bombings had not occurred. How many people did the IRA kill? That is, how many non-combatants died because of their bombs, their guns and their indiscriminate use of torture? 500? 600? Where are the apologies for these people? Where are their plaques? Well, Mr Adams where are they?

Desmond Reilly: One of the 21 people killed when the IRA detonated a device in a Birmingham Pub in November 1974. Image retrieved from the Birmingham Post.

Let us not forget that since the Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire in 1996, at least 20 people have died at their hands and plenty more have suffered punishment beatings. Looked at from this vantage point the Provisionals come across not so much as freedom fighters but rather as a brutal criminal gang.

But there will be no apologies. To illustrate this, consider the case of Jean McConville. Here we have a lady that was executed by the IRA following allegations that she was acting as an informer to the British. The allegations remained unfounded and in fact are mired in the partisan nature of the parties involved and as alluded to above. The outcome of this killing was that her children were taken into care and her body found in 2003 by people out walking. An inquest held in 2004 concluded that the killing was unlawful yet in 2005 the chairman of Sinn Fein - Mitchel McLaughlin – stated that the killing was not a criminal act.

Jean McConville was abducted by a gang of IRA operatives and executed following claims that she was acting as an informer for the British. Apparently her murder was not a criminal act and therefore one would imagine that no apologies will be forthcoming. Image retrieved from the BBC.

My point is this. The Saville enquiry has concluded that the victims of Bloody Sunday were innocent which can lead to the assumption that the killings were unlawful. If this is true and if the perpetrators are to be held to account then surely the same must be true for the killers of McConville. Or, do we simply adopt the stance of McLaughlin, ignore the findings of the enquiry and simply mutter the trite and dishonest refrain that the killings were not a criminal act? I mean common sense dictates that whether armed or not, facing a large group of angry demonstrators is more likely to necessitate the use of force than would be the case when outnumbering and confronting a single lady.

It is unfortunate that undertaking investigations like the Saville Enquiry will reopen old wounds, but this is a necessary evil. However, such enquiries serve no real purpose if the fingers of blame and accountability are pointing one way. It is about time that the people involved in Provisional IRA operations stood up and admitted that they too were as guilty as the British in perpetrating a seemingly endless list of atrocities on the people of Northern Ireland and the UK.

Adams said that “Bloody Sunday is the defining story of the British army in Ireland.” In the sense that it radicalised many who were at best ambivalent and at worst wavering in their support of the IRA then yes, Bloody Sunday was a pivotal moment. But for me, Bloody Sunday was part of a wider conflict of which there is no defining moment, but rather a catalogue of mistrust, hatred, paranoia and fear driven by the crass stupidity of the partisan politics that are endemic to Northern Ireland. It is worth pondering how many would have died if the British Army had not been there during those years?

It is then worth asking what exactly would these people have died for?